The Pathogenesis of the Modern Climate

Michael Boyden
2020 Ecozon@  
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
more » ... e 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.
doi:10.37536/ecozona.2020.11.1.3179 fatcat:43f3zi6rujcdzfttpfwhkpdnma