Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Climate change novels -- faulty simulators of environmental politics

Adam Trexler, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Exeter, has a great article over at Policyinnnovations.org: Over the last three decades, more than 200 novels have been written that try to imagine our future in a climate-changed world. Novels are fanciful by nature, doomsaying or utopian, and would never be confused for serious policy arguments. However, this collection of novels, taken as a whole, indicates some of the fundamental difficulties we have in articulating a just and sustainable future.

Despite decades spent talking about climate change, our culture remains mired in political uncertainty. Anthony Giddens recently described the crux of the problem as follows: An effective response to global warming must be multilateral, but we lack the institutions, mechanisms, and international relationships needed to make progress. Simply put, we lack a politics of climate change.

Imagining what could fill this gap has proved as problematic as predicting the physical climate. The IPCC has long used emissions scenarios—narratives about policy, technology, population, the economy, and emissions—to describe climate outcomes. While no particular scenario is likely to come true 100 percent, the scenarios help describe some of the complex interactions we should expect.

...Across the board, the novel has long depended on human conflicts—national, social, and political—to narrate different points of view. Bilateral negotiation, ultimatums, two-party politics, and activist resistance have unfolded along the same logic. However, these recent novels about global warming suggest we need new ways of envisioning political alliances, blending technocratic and utopian aspects of policy...

Artwork created by Stefan Prohaczka for Wikipedia in the development of an article, from http://stefanparis.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2qcpr0, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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