Last month, world leaders met at UN Headquarters in New York City for Climate Summit 2014. As protests raged across the globe, diplomats established the framework for a major agreement next year. The aim will be to limit anthropogenic warming to no more than 2 °C, a threshold established by scientists and policymakers, beyond which climate change is increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.
Just days after the 2014 summit, policy expert David Victor and influential astrophysicist Charles Kennel published an article in Nature that called on governments to “ditch the 2 °C warming goal.” Kennel and Victor argue that the rise in average global temperatures has stalled since 1998, as warming is increasingly absorbed by the world’s oceans. Variations in global temperature therefore do not directly reflect climate change, and governments should adopt other benchmarks for action. Atmospheric concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, they contend, more accurately reveal the relentless advance of climate change. In any case, limiting the rise in global temperatures to just 2 °C would impose unrealistic costs on national economies. Read more
HistoricalClimatology.com was founded shortly before the Climate History Network, as a way of introducing climate history and historical climatology to academics, policymakers, and the general public, in way that highlighted their relevance to global warming. Over the years, it has grown from a research blog maintained by Dagomar Degroot, into a larger online resource that now annually receives approximately 100,000 unique hits. This site is about the emerging discipline of climate history, but HistoricalClimatology.com is all about linking the insights of that discipline to environmental issues that are relevant today.
This week, PhD Candidate Benoit S. Lecavalier joined HistoricalClimatology.com as an editor who help update two new sections: the first lists the best climate stories published on the web each month, and the second presents some of the most intriguing new scholarly articles relevant to climate history.
We are also regularly updating our “projects” page, which will now provide short descriptions of ongoing, interdisciplinary research undertaken by historical climatologists and climate historians. This week, Dagomar Degroot and postdoctoral fellow Josh MacFadyen (re)launched our projects page with descriptions of their ongoing projects. We plan to add new projects every month, so please contact Dagomar if you’d like us to feature your work.
Call For Papers: Ruling Climate: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Governmentality, 1500-1800
‘Ruling Climate’ aims to explore the relationship between cultural perceptions of the environment and practical attempts at environmental regulation and change between 1500 and 1800. The conference will be held at the University of Warwick on 16 May 2015. Submit proposals by 10 December 2014.
In the early modern period, the environment became a privileged locus of scientific debate and governmental action. Discussions spread across Europe and its colonies as to how to improve the land, and possibly even the climate of a given place; practical efforts were made to enhance the healthiness, productivity, and overall pleasantness of the environment (both natural and built) in the belief that environmental ‘improvement’, as it was then called, would immediately bring about human improvement—a larger, healthier, happier population that would make the country more powerful. Such debates and practices were driven by a persistent belief in the influence that landscape, weather and climate would exert on human beings, both at a physical and a spiritual level. ‘Climate theories’—first advanced by ancient authors such as Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy—remained a popular explanatory paradigm throughout the early modern period, actively dictating trends in environmental management, social governance, and the administration of both private and public health, as well as shaping colonial attitudes to foreign climates and peoples. Yet the period between 1500 and 1800 was also one of substantial intellectual, scientific, and technological change in which new conceptions of nature, climate, and weather were developed. The human footprint on Earth grew heavier, whilst the first moves towards conservation and sustainable resource management were made. Finally, it was in this period that changing climatic patterns were observed for the first time, partly because of a cooling trend that reached its peak around 1650 (the so-called Little Ice Age).
As climate change becomes arguably the most pressing issue of our time, with evolving implications for societies in every cultural context, we seek to enhance our understanding of the ways in which culture and climate intersect with and animate one another. Cultural responses to and representations of climate are particularly compelling at a time when catastrophic weather events are becoming more commonly manifest and are inspiring a wide array of cultural and interpretive responses. Paying particular attention to the cultural implications of climate and to cultural, political, and societal responses to climate change, this conference explores how humanities-based scholarship can be brought to bear upon the evolving reality of climate change. Conference events include keynote talks given by internationally renowned climate and culture scholars, traditional academic papers and presentations, and a variety of interdisciplinary and multimedia performances. We thus invite submissions from scholars from across the humanities, broadly defined, who are dealing with any aspect of climate and climate change in a cultural context. The conference is hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island, home of the Atlantic Climate Lab and the Institute of Island Studies. Prince Edward Island is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and charm, thus making it an especially apt location for a conference on climate change and its human implications. Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words to email@example.com by January 5, 2015. For more on the conference, visit its website or its Facebook page.
By Benoit S. Lecavalier.
The Greenland ice sheet is melting fast, and it contains enough water to raise global sea levels by over seven meters if it were to disappear entirely. However, thousands of years ago the ice sheet was much larger, with a total of 12 metres ice-equivalent sea-level. There are many questions that remain unanswered about how Greenland lost all this ice from past to present. For example: how and where did the Greenland ice sheet lose mass? What climate history resulted in such a drastic change in the ice sheet? This summer, these were the questions that led a multidisciplinary team of scientists to Southeast Greenland. We were embarking on an expedition to better understand its climate history, and so resolve part of a much bigger story. Read more.
“Human Climate” and the Interface of Earth-Sea and Sky: a Meditation on the Verticality of this Ecotone
John Gillis, who has a distinct quality of being an interface between humanity and thought, calls us to attend to interfaces, ecotones, meeting places of ecological and cultural differences. He argues that from cells to states, interfaces are porous, and full of possibility. “Margins” are not margin-al, rather, they are zonal, full, places unto themselves. Places to be, to build, and to pay attention to. This invitation to shift perspective – the educators’ magic carpet – literally sky-rocketed my conception of the possibilities at interfaces. In David Christian’s Big History, Maps of Time, he argues that it is the temperature differentials in space that are catalytically creative, gestating galaxies, and generating longue-durée cycles of creation and destruction. Similarly, differences in temperatures and air pressure drive the climate system on Earth. Gillis noted the vertical, as well as horizontal, dimensions of ecotones. He suggested that the verticality of the ecotone joining land and sea surfaces with the atmosphere has taken on a new significance with climate change. It is perhaps the last large ecotonal place which humans must actively collaborate with in our evolution. The energy we have cajoled and coerced the Earth to resurrect in the form of fossil fuels makes the conceptualization of “human climate” that much more poignant and physical. However, aside from this concrete dimension, climate is something that humans imagine and construct in our minds, based on our experiences of place, at the invisible conjuncture of nature and culture. There is no climate without the myriad ways we interact with weather on a daily basis through our technologies of seasonality, from snowshoes to Christmas/festivals of light, which make us at home in our particular climates, and which mediate their potential effects. Read the rest of this entry »
<from Meteohistory listserv>
The International Research Institute on Humanity and Nature (総合地球環境学研究所), a leading science and environmental policy research institute, is engaged in a series of explorations of long-term human-nature interactions associated with climatalogical and environmental change in Japan, the “Societal Adaptation to Climate Change: Integrating Palaeoclimatological Data with Historical and Archaeological Evidences” program (project web sites noted below). Part of the institute’s research funding is thus available to support a broad array of disciplinary studies related to this theme. This includes consideration of comparative perspectives, theory and method.
Competition for awards for the next Japanese fiscal year (April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016) is now open. Information on research funding, application procedures and deadlines can be found at:
Project descriptions can be found at:
These sites also include contact information at the Institute.