Climate Change: War Footing or Peaceful Solidarity?

In recent years, prominent voices in the public sphere have drawn an analogy between climate change and warfare. This has led, for example, to calls for massive, coordinated interventions akin to the Manhattan Project[i] – the Second World War era project which led to the development of the first nuclear weapons – or drawing on British wartime propaganda calling for a ‘war footing’[ii] among the general public to deal with climate change. While not all of those drawing this analogy have explicitly claimed that a Hobbesian ‘Leviathan’ approach is necessary to force cooperative action, the link between State power and climate change was clearly articulated by US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who recently promised supporters that, if elected, she would “make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century”[iii].

The increasing trend to militarise environmental and common pool resource problems has also been criticised from multiple corners[iv]. Some environmental and indigenous rights activists see top down government intervention as an aggressive imposition of the will of those most responsible for climate change upon the lives of those least responsible[v], while conservative voices (at least those who admit the science behind climate change), voice skepticism regarding the efficacy of governmental or inter-governmental institutions to broker and administer a truly global effort. Looking beyond climate change specifically, the militarisation of conservation has been shown to have perverse human rights implications, and in some cases may even cause more ecological harm than good[vi].

On the one hand, the application of military analogies in policy making carries its own risks, misconstruing and simplifying the nature of the problem[vii]. On the other hand, the scale of the problem is such that any real solutions leading to the mitigation of carbon emissions, as well as adaptation to the changes already under way, cut across such a broad array of facets and domains of human affairs[viii] that dealing with them individually may be impossible. As much as the decentralisation of decision-making may appeal in procedural terms, it can be difficult to imagine disconnected, individual initiatives ever leading to a common solution. Further, one could provocatively argue that the exclusion of governance favours ‘the market’ as an inevitable mechanism for resource allocation decision-making.

Authors are invited to engage with the question: Does the challenge of climate change warrant a war footing? If so, who is the enemy?

Read the responses:


Continue reading “Climate Change: War Footing or Peaceful Solidarity?”


Without Attachment or Fear

Professor Dominic Boyer
Director, CENHS, Rice University

Even if one were the sort who believed that war solved anything, there would still be the issue of identifying who or what was the enemy in the “battle” against climate change. Is it the upstream and downstream industries and infrastructures of Big Carbon? Is it the governments who rely upon carbon fuels as the cheapest route to economic development? Is it anyone who eats meat given that greenhouse gas emissions of livestock production alone exceed those of the transportation sector? Is it simply anyone who flips a light switch or plugs an appliance into an outlet and expects immediate gratification in the form of abundant affordable electricity? All of this makes a turn toward martial discourse sound rather hollow. Who exactly are we meant to be fighting? To my ear, war talk is displaced self-hatred about one’s own investment in an accelerationist culture of energy excess. Does anyone really aspire to participate in a diffuse and endless War on Climate Change that—like the War on Terror before it—would simply demonstrate once again violence’s remarkable talent for begetting itself? Continue reading “Without Attachment or Fear”

Climate change and the crisis of reciprocal relations among the Q’eros (Cuzco, Peru)

Geremia Cometti
Postdoctoral Fellow
Swiss National Science Foundation at the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale in Paris

The Q’eros are an indigenous group living on the oriental slope of the Cordillera Vilcanota, in the department of Cuzco, Peru. They are split into five transhumant communities spanning three ‘ecological levels’. The highest level, the puna, ranges from 3,800 to 4,600 meters in altitude. At this level the alpacas and llamas are bred. At the qheswa, the intermediary level ranging from 3,200 to 3,800 metres, the Q’eros cultivate different types of tubers. Finally, from 1,400 to 2,400 metres, there is the yunga, a wooded zone cultivated with maize. Climatic changes, especially through changes in rainfall patterns, significantly impact the agricultural productions of the Q’eros, and endanger the health and existence of their livestock. Continue reading “Climate change and the crisis of reciprocal relations among the Q’eros (Cuzco, Peru)”

Globalizing the climate. Climatizing the world

Edouard Morena

In this thematic Notes From The Field, Edouard Morena of CNRS/LADYSS describes a collaborative ethnographic project centring around the COP21 climate talks in Paris, December 2015.


The 21st Conference of the Parties to the Climate convention (COP21) in Paris (2015) is commonly presented as a historic last chance to set the world on a course that prevents catastrophic climate change. By bringing together negotiators, scientists, journalists and representatives of global civil society, it also constitutes a privileged vantage point – an ‘emblematic instance’ – for the study of global environmental governance ‘in the making’.

In focusing almost exclusively on the multilateral negotiations, the bulk of current research on climate governance tends to lose sight of the ‘bigger picture’ of what is at stake in climate debates. Climate negotiations address a growing number of issues, from debates about development, energy and forests, to biodiversity, equity and urban planning. In turn, climate conferences gather a wide array of actors from different backgrounds that carry distinctive understandings of the problem, its causes and possible solutions. This points to a transformation of global debates involving both a ‘globalisation of the climate question’ and a ‘climatisation of the world’. Continue reading “Globalizing the climate. Climatizing the world”