The nuclear option

Authored by: Lee Clarke

Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  July  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415544764
eBook ISBN: 9780203876213
Adobe ISBN: 9781135998509


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Science does not often truck in apocalyptic visions, but it does regarding climate change. The rhetorical framing and imagery used to convey the seriousness of climate change is apocalyptic, though of course its lingua franca is technical vocabulary. The oft-used standard for comparison of atmospheric CO2 levels is with pre-industrial times (280 ppm), a comparison that both portrays the contribution of modernity to the problem and valorises pre-modernity. As a narrative about modernity, the story of climate change is an indictment of consumerism, industrialisation, corporatism and globalisation. The scenario-based thinking, the ‘what-ifs’, is as frightening as any projections of flu epidemics or asteroid strikes, and is made to sound that way. Climate change seems to belong to that class of hazard events in which the more that is known about the explanandum, the more concern is generated, at least among scientists. Opponents of the idea of climate change are dismissed with surplus fervour.

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