Synopsis

In response to pervasive disinformation, scientists and activists alike underscore the expert consensus about global warming. From the Union of Concerned Scientists to the youth-led Extinction Rebellion, "the science is clear" encapsulates this rhetorical appeal to accept the facts of climate change and, in turn, address its cascading impacts. That appeal is not without power, as evidenced in the growing number of Americans who identify climate change as real and urgent. And yet, political affiliations and online networks continue to define who holds this view.

To counter climate denialism, new narratives are needed. For decades, the dominant story about global warming has leveraged scientific interpretations of historical data and statistical modeling to tell apocalyptic stories about what will happen—or what is already happening—if societies fail to act: more catastrophic storm events, larger wildfires, hotter summers and rising seas. These stories are grounded in both scientific fact and observable reality. But they have proven inadequate to not only the challenge of communicating environmental science in the context of anti-science but also the need to speak to diverse, divergent experiences of the climate crisis. This talk will identify alternatives to the data-driven doomsday story of climate change. Informed by the work of contemporary artists and journalists, these alternatives include: everyday stories of global warming as it is upending the lives of local communities, satires of climate denialism that lampoon oil and gas corporations and their political allies and, finally, speculative narratives of more livable futures in which worst case scenarios have been averted.

This public lecture is the third in the Spring 2021 High Meadows Environmental Institute Faculty Seminar Series, and will be held as a Zoom webinar.