The Pathogenesis of the Modern Climate
Keywords:Climate, historical semantics, Koselleck, secular eschatology, crisis
This article offers an exploratory semantic analysis of the concept of climate through the lens of Reinhart Koselleck’s theory of historical semantics. After discussing reasons for its absence in Koselleck’s own scholarly investigations into the semantics of modernity, the article argues that the word climate acquired the properties of a freestanding concept in the course of the eighteenth century. The steep rise in the word’s relative frequency at that time is explained in terms of its relevance to contemporary perceptions of time, and more particularly the rise of the progress narrative as a driver of human-made history. The article equally traces the concept’s decline in the course of the nineteenth century by pointing to developments in the sciences and the secularization of eschatology. Finally, the article reflects on the concept’s revival since the latter half of the twentieth century. Focusing specifically on the recent emergence of collocations such as “climate crisis,” the article argues that, in its orientation towards an open future, climate change communication reveals its reliance on the temporal framework of accelerating progress that it at the same time holds responsible for our warming planet. The article concludes with a plea to pay closer attention to the temporal presuppositions underlying climate change communication.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
a) Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal (CC BY-NC for articles and CC BY-NC-ND for creative work, unless author requests otherwise.
b) Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
c) Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).