What is a Horizon?
What is a Horizon?
Navigating Thresholds in Climate Change Uncertainty
This essay analyzes the shift from incremental to exponential accelerations in atmospheric CO2 and its implications for the science and governance of climate change. It examines some of the models and tools that scientists are developing to address and manage environmental uncertainty, as well as their emerging forms of scientific monitoring of increasingly unpredictable ecosystemic behaviors. A central question concerns how such sciences contribute to prospective thinking about how natural systems and societal infrastructures might adapt to imminent ecological dangers linked to climate change. The essay shows how a scientific predication toward ecosystemic “tipping points” has ushered in a new kind of intellectual labor, a horizoning work, involving the construction of empirical tools and appropriate “scaling rules” for recognizing and keeping a “safe distance” from unsafe ecosystemic thresholds. Here the notion of horizon acts as a kind of contemporary equipment for managing and sometimes mitigating complex futures. The horizon also sets a stage for contemplating relations between nonparametric realities and a social science of survival. With a public increasingly enamored with magic bullet solutions to the problem of climate change, the essay’s conclusion explores alternative frameworks of prevention and biomanipulation as antidotes to intensifying pressures to geoengineer.
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