Algorithms and Climate Change: Knowing Acting Governing 1

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Climate Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Ruth Machen, Eric Nost
Chairs: Eric Nost


Affordances and Critique

This session is the first of two session exploring knowledge politics at the intersection of algorithms and climate change governance. The first session will concentrate on what algorithmic climate knowledge looks like, the affordances it offers and the relations of power that are produced reproduced or otherwise embodied.

While algorithms have been central to climate modelling - as well to how mitigation and adaptation strategies are evaluated - relatively little attention to date has been directed towards the political implications of knowing, acting on and governing climate change through an algorithmic register (cf. Hulme 2011). Popular and scientific attention has instead tended to focus on practical questions around improving model design, applying geospatial technologies and developing robotic and remote sensing. As part of an increasing attention to the digital within human geography (Ash, Kitchin, and Leszczynski 2018), scholars have highlighted the political work of interfaces (Ash et al 2018), platforms (Srnicek 2017), sensors (Gabrys 2015, 2016), urban operating systems (Marvin and Luque-Ayala 2017), biometrics (Amoore 2006, 2009, 2011), data visualisations (Boehnert 2016) and code (Nost 2015). Contributing to this critical engagement with digital forms, this session turns attention to algorithmic knowledge politics within climate governance. Empirical, theoretical and critical papers in this session will engage with one or more of the following questions:

- What does it mean to know climate change through an algorithmic register? What kinds of knowledge are afforded?
- In what ways do algorithms extend, short-circuit and otherwise modify existing knowledge chains? Who authors, maintains, and evaluates algorithms and their outputs? What implications arise through translating knowledge in-and-out of digital language and/or binary decision structures?
- What kinds of decisions, actions or interventions are made possible or occluded through algorithmic means?
- What are the limits to calculating climate and situating predicted changes within concrete political, economic, and social contexts? With what implications for climate governance and justice?
- What similarities and differences in algorithmic climate knowledge politics are there across cases?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Eric Nost University of Guelph 5 9:55 AM
Presenter Ruth Machen*, Newcastle University, Eric Nost*, University of Guelph, Algorithmic Climate Politics? 15 10:00 AM
Presenter Bruno MEEUS*, University of Fribourg, The rise of VR-technology in climate change communication. From distant critique to critical engagement. 15 10:15 AM
Presenter Kevin St. Martin*, Rutgers University, The Ontological Politics of Interdisciplinary Climate Research 15 10:30 AM
Presenter Thomas Grindsted*, Roskilde University, Algorithms and the Anthropocene - Finance, Sustainability, and the Promise and Hazards of New Financial Technologies 15 10:45 AM
Presenter Giovanni Bettini*, Lancaster University, Giovanna Gioli, University of Edinburgh, Clouding Skies - Digital approaches to 'Loss and Damage' associated with climate change, and the algorithmization of injustice in a warming world 15 11:00 AM
Discussant James Ash Newcastle University 10 11:15 AM

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