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“Neither state – nor UN-centric manifestations of power — nor indeed the workings of the market, nor the surprises wrought by cultural, economic and technological shifts — will ever allow future climate a predictable ‘safe-landing’” (Hulme, 2021: 212).

This is a research workshop organised by the Centre for the Study of Governance and Society, with the following synopsis:

The ambition to govern the climate is a dangerous one.  Even more so when guided by a tenacious faith in the ‘iron hand’ of scientific rationalism.  Epistemic certainty and moralism, when combined with climate deadline-ism (’10 more years to save the world’), fuels declarations of climate emergency – as we have seen in recent years.  Even if initially benign, emergency politics opens the door to ‘strong men’ and for anti-liberalism.  Rather than declaring ‘states of emergency’ in the name of a climate crisis, the approach to taming the worst effects of climate change should be one of pragmatism, incrementalism and experimentation.  Drawing heavily form my new book Climate Change (Key Ideas in Geography) (Routledge, 2021), this talk develops this argument, explaining what I mean by ‘science-first’ and ‘more-than-science’ approaches to responding to the various realities of climate change.  There are other resources and avenues available beyond scientific rationalism.  For example, the ambiguity, complexity and partiality of religious myths, Indigenous knowledge-ways or the creative arts undermines the illusion that science will ever yield all that is necessary to know about the future to adequately guide actions in the present.

About the Speaker:

Professor Michael Hulme is Professor of Human Geography and Fellow and Geography Director of Studies at Pembroke College at Cambridge University.

He studies the cultural and epistemic construction of the idea of climate change, and its discursive and material effects, drawing upon scientific, social scientific and humanities insight. His work has appeared in academic journals in the sciences, social sciences and humanities and has profoundly shaped the way in which the idea of climate-change is being studied, communicated and mobilised, in both the academy and public life.

From 2000 to 2007, he was the Founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a multi-institutional and inter-disciplinary research centre based at the University of East Anglia (UEA). For 12 years prior to establishing the Tyndall Centre, he worked in the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at UEA. While working in CRU, he specialised in the compilation and analysis of global climate datasets and the construction and application of climate change scenarios for impact, adaptation and integrated assessment. He led the preparation of a series of climate scenarios and reports for the UK Government and in 2007 received a personalised certificate from the Nobel Peace Prize committee in recognition of my ‘significant contribution’ to the work of the United Nations’ IPCC. Since 2008, he has also been the founding Editor-in-Chief of the review journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) Climate Change, with a Citescore (2019) of 12.4.

Professor Hulme’s most recent book, published in July 2021, is ‘Climate Change‘ in the Routledge Series Key Ideas in Geography. Prior to this, he published Contemporary Climate Change Debates: A Student Primer (Routledge, 2020), an edited collection which presents 15 important debates raised by climate change, each addressed by pairs of leading scholars from around the world.