The Trouble with Modeling the Human into the Future Climate

Authors: Dylan M Harris*, Clark University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Climatology and Meteorology, Environment
Keywords: climate change, STS, climate justice, Sylvia Wynter
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Climate models are key instruments for understanding the present climate and for predicting future climate change. Because contemporary climate change is largely caused by human interference in the climate system, it is necessary to factor humanity’s impact on the future climate into climate models. Humanity is often calculated as one, quantifiable layer in a climate model, counted as one factor among many other climate phenomena, and projected into the future. These future projections serve as the basis for policy decisions that direct current and future responses to climate change. Given that not all humans are responsible for current climate change, and that certain humans are already unequally impacted by climate change, it is necessary to develop a more nuanced understanding of the human in climate modeling. Without this nuance, future climate policy, as determined by climate modeling, will potentially replicate historic inequalities that are already present in current climate change. This paper begins by briefly outlining how climate models are built, and the ways they are used in climate politics. Then, borrowing methods from climate modelers, this paper turns towards Sylvia Wynter’s work to model the human. Using past and future climates as a basis for analysis, this paper, using the work of queer and black scholars specifically, argues for a reconsideration of past and future models of humanity. The ultimate aim of this paper is to think more expansively and creatively about who and what kinds of humans thrive in climate futures.

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