“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why I Don't Call It "Climate Change" and Never Shall

I just wrote this for the intro of Hyperobjects:

The end of the world is correlated with the Anthropocene, its global warming and subsequent drastic climate change, whose precise scope remains uncertain while its reality is verified beyond question. Throughout Hyperobjects I shall be calling it global warming and not climate change. Why? Whatever the scientific and social reasons for the predominance of “climate change” over “global warming” for naming this particular hyperobject, the effect in social and political discourse is plain enough. There has been a decrease in appropriate levels of concern. Indeed, denialism is able to claim that “climate change” is merely the rebranding of a fabrication, nay evidence of this fabrication in flagrante delicto. On the terrain of media and the sociopolitical, “climate change” has been such a failure that one is tempted to see the term itself as a kind of denial, a reaction to the radical trauma of unprecedented global warming. That the terms are presented as choices rather than as a package is a symptom of this failure, since it is logically the case that it is correct to say “climate change as a result of global warming,” where “climate change” is just a compression of a more detailed phrase, a metonymy. 

If this is not the case, then “climate change” as a substitute for “global warming” is like “cultural change” as a substitute for Renaissance, or “change in living conditions” as a substitute for Holocaust. “Climate change” as substitute enables cynical reason (both right wing and left) to say that “climate has always been changing,” which to my ears sounds like “people have always been killing one another” as a fatuous reason not to control the sale of machine guns. What we desperately need is an appropriate level of shock and anxiety concerning a specific ecological trauma--indeed, the ecological trauma of our age, the very thing that defines the Anthropocene as such. This is why I shall be sticking with the phrase global warming in this book. 


amanda vox said...

your point is very compelling but calling it global warming seem to generate a lot of confusion as well. as when it gets cold and (stupid) people say "isn´t the world supposed to be getting warmer"... most irritating.

Anonymous said...

Omg: "change in living conditions"! Yes, climate change is way too soothing ...But Amanda has a point. Climate catastrophe?

Anonymous said...

It's systemic, and climatologists call it climate instability because massive climate systems have become truly unstable.