Climate change as an event

Elsevier, Poetics, Volume 93, August 2022
Tavory I., Wagner-Pacifici R.

What kind of event is climate change? Theories of events inevitably begin with rupture. An event depends on the experience that the ground has dramatically shifted. Yet the ambiguity of rupture in climate change—which cannot be experienced in any one instance—makes climate change more difficult to emplot. Moreover, it is an event defined as much by how actors see the future unfolding as by its present or past. Tying the theory of events with that of future-making, we focus on three important forms of eventfulness that we find in the current climate change debate: scientific modes of eventfulness, the radical eventfulness of groups such as Extinction Rebellion, and what we call the “sensible” eventfulness of European Union and United Nations functionaries, as it is gleaned from climate change documents such as the European Green Deal. As we show, each form of eventfulness constructs a different temporal landscape, populated by different actors and actions, entailing different stances towards the future and different kinds of projects. Focusing on the tensions within each form, we then show that understanding these forms of eventfulness can also help us understand how different actors fused climate change to other events, such as that of the global Covid-19 epidemic.