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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate catastrophes and fear

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Abstract Describing a topic of recent significance, the terms ‘climate catastrophe’ and ‘fear’ have made their way into common speech. ‘Climate catastrophe’ (Klimakatastrophe) was chosen by the German Language Society as word of the year in 2007, while ‘fear’ has gained new presence since 9/11, associated with terrorism, on‐going human destruction of the environment, and more generally with rather vague fears of the future: a state of heightened anxiety. I look at this issue from a historical perspective, asking how our current society has come to conceive of climate change in terms of catastrophe and fear, in line with historians' demands for a more subtle cultural and historical understanding of climate and fear in human society. The current discourses of fear over climate change reflect the attempts to come to grips with the long‐term issue of anthropogenic climate change; they are appeals for action (or calls to inaction) and imply claims to power, while stressing that the issue is political and cultural, not merely a matter of science and reason alone. WIREs Clim Change 2010 1 885–890 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.79 This article is categorized under: Climate, History, Society, Culture > Ideas and Knowledge

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