Dealing with Climate Change. Calculus & Catastrophe in the Age of Simulation

MECS | Leuphana Universität
25.06.2015 - 26.06.2015
Isabell Schrickel

In recent years both the scientific and political community have accepted anthropogenic climate change as real. This broad consensus is astonishing since the variety of scenario versions, the complexity and futurity of global climate change makes its empirical verification and theoretical conceptualization difficult. Within the discourse of climate change computer simulations have replaced other established modes of scientific research and reasoning, and the history of computer modeling and computer simulation is co-extensive with the history of climate science. Here we consider computer simulations as cultural techniques since they realign and reorganize not only epistemic communities but also intervene into social and (geo-)political orders.

As an integral part of the vast machine of climate research the models of global climate change detect the variability of the dynamic and globalized physis of the climate, attribute anthropogenic impacts and predict the comprehensive interdependences with other environmental spheres. They create a continuous presence of the future necessitating adaptive measures to either achieve or avoid a certain scenario. In the last decades the dramatic catastrophic potential of these diagnosis has been growing constantly and it almost seems as if climate change after the end of the Cold War took over the systematic role that nuclear war had earlier. It’s another version of a catastrophe without event, that has to be managed either way. The issue of climate change has the potential to reconfigure the political climate and the imaginations of the social.

Beyond traditional climate models other forms of simulation are used to explore the effects of a changing climate for ecosystems, food and industrial production and to investigate the consequences for the planning of infrastructures, energy systems or urban landscapes to enable and allow decision-making in these fields. Integrated assessment techniques generate socio-economic scenarios between adaption to and mitigation of climate change. In this tension between sombre visions of the future and its calculated containment new responsibilities are generated and traditional sovereignties are shifting.

Last not least the notion of climate itself has changed. Traditionally climates existed only as plurals and were understood as a cultural background setting affecting mentalities and dispositions. With the advent of computer simulations as a cultural technique, climate has become a globalized resource necessitating its management. This entails conceptualizing climate and other environmental aspects as resources, and thus measuring and negotiating their values and regimes of allocation. Hence it is necessary to investigate the economic and political rationales evoked in a setting where climate is understood as a globalized resource.

We invite scholars from media & culture studies, environmental studies, geography, history & philosophy of sciences and the humanities to present and discuss climate change and its simulation paradigms in its present and historical dimensions. We invite concrete case studies that deal with aspects of the outlined scenarios as well theoretical contributions that question the cultural and epistemological conditions and effects of a simulation-based order of knowledge.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words together with a short CV before 31 January 2015 to Acceptance notification will be sent out on 12 February 2015.

Organized by Isabell Schrickel & Christoph Engemann.


Isabell Schrickel

Wallstr. 3

Dealing with Climate Change. Calculus & Catastrophe in the Age of Simulation, 25.06.2015 – 26.06.2015 Lüneburg, in: H-Soz-Kult, 13.01.2015, <>.
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