Who is narrating?
The white noise around Climate Change can be explained through the following example. The internet and the printed press are providing a huge amount of information on a wide range of topics, making it available for anyone to read. Hence both the university professors of history and the person who usually failed their history exams are able to read the same article about Napoleon, however their understanding will be very different.
The climate crisis is a similar scenario. People, without any scientific background regarding the environment, read articles about rising sea levels, dying coral reefs, temperature anomalies, greenhouse gasses, climate refugees, species going extinct and the list continues.
Moreover they read that it is all caused by human activity. That taming fire some 11.000 years ago led straight to the burning of fossil fuels to satisfy our energy consumption with the by-product of global temperature rise.
This knowledge has recently stepped over the threshold and entered the civic discussion. The narrative of the impact of social forces and human-activity on the biosphere is mainly dominated by natural science.
It’s new, full of jargon hence can be misunderstood or heavily influenced by the interest of the media releasing it. The science of nature and society must meet and narrate this part of history together.
The subject of climate change has been ruled by the scientific community and their choice of words and terminology.
When dutch atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen first introduced the term Anthropocene in 2002, he connected sociology to natural science. This freshly made connection however remained unnoticed for years.
The geological era we live in got the name after humans. The name Anthropocene also called the Human Era highlights how entangled man-activity is with the ecosystem and its huge impact, that it has become the primary element shaping earth’s climate after the industrial revolution.
Anthropos means human in greek. So the term anthropocene refers to the whole of humanity when being used. Although it’s true that it is the evolution of humanity as one entity that resulted in the lifestyle people live in the global north, the term doesn’t specify that it is not the whole of humanity that is causing climate change.
The burning of fossil fuels started in 19th century Britain with the steam-engine. So it is a small group of capitalists in the western world, owning such technology that set the stage for today’s crisis.
There is major inequality in which part of the world is contributing to the climate crisis and to what extent. In 2008 the population of the global north was 18,8% of the world population, producing 72,7% of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions. An average American citizen emits the same amount as 500 Ethiopian, Afghan or Burundi citizens. (Malm and Hornborg, 2014). Can we say, taking these facts in consideration, that it is the whole of humanity that is causing the climate crisis?
Straightening out these jargons could benefit the understanding of the processes the climate and society went through in their more and more entangled relationship.
We must start to talk about the sociological aspects of global warming and work on the vocabulary that is needed to address these issues in a proper, ethical and just way.