The Politics and Ethics of the Climate Emergency - Perspectives from Philosophy, Political Theory, Law, and Social Sciences

June 12, 2023 - June 13, 2023
Tampere University


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Freie Universität Berlin
University of Tampere

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The science of climate change is well established: amongst its effects are rising sea levels, frequent and intense draughts, the loss of ecosystems, and extreme weather events. These severe threats as well as the urgency of the matter have given rise to naming the current situation a ‘climate emergency’.

In this workshop, we explore the climate emergency form the perspective of philosophy, political theory, law, social sciences, and related disciplines. The workshop is motivated by the question of how different disciplines conceptualize the climate emergency and its implications, both in theory and practice.

For example, contributions may address the following themes/ questions:

o   There is a rich body of theoretical literature on emergencies generally, including works of Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben, Elaine Scarry and Tom Sorell; does it also address the specificities of the climate emergency?

o   How is the climate emergency different from or similar to emergencies such as war, pandemics, and natural disasters?

o Which notions (e.g., crisis, state of exception) are available as alternatives or in addition to emergency?

o   How does the climate emergency as transnational emergency impact on the notion and practice of sovereignty?

o   Which social/ political/ legal/ economic mechanisms prevent treating climate change as an emergency? Does the ‘emergency frame’ add to effective climate action?

o   Who can declare the climate emergency? What makes for an apt climate emergency declaration? What can we learn from the climate emergency declarations that have already been issued by municipalities, universities, states, and other entities?

o   What are (and should) be the legal implications of declaring a climate emergency? 

Does the climate emergency allow for the suspension of some ordinary moral or political norms? Which and how?

o   Is there a tension between activists’ demands for more democracy in climate policymaking, and the notion of emergency? If yes, how can it be addressed?

o   Climate activists employ a wide range of strategies; which promise success? Can they be vindicated ethically/ politically/ legally as proper responses to the climate emergency? Can they be considered civil disobedience?

The workshop will take place on 12-13 June 2023 at Tampere University, Finland. To apply, send an abstract of 300-500 words to [email protected] by 31 January 2023. Decisions will be announced in late February.

Confirmed keynote speaker: Nomi Claire Lazar (University of Ottawa)

Participants will be expected to submit a short draft paper 10 days before the workshop and to give a presentation of approximately 20 minutes. Additionally, participants may be asked to prepare brief comments addressing another speaker’s draft.

We welcome interdisciplinary submissions as well as submissions by PhD researchers. Participation is free of charge.

For any inquiries, please contact the organizers Lauri Lahikainen and Katharina Braun at [email protected]

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