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Seeing violence in the weather: the apocalyptic rhetoric of climate-driven conflict

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter



The deeply worrying prospect of a global catastrophe frequently operates as the
conceptual backdrop of rhetoric meant to convey the dangers of climate change. In recent years, however, concerns about climate change have given rise to postapocalyptic forecasts of a future where the crisis overwhelmingly shapes and
propels social conflict. Such forecasts impart tremendous causal power to climate
change, while simultaneously foreclosing human agency and responsibility.
Although such warnings are often made by campaigners trying to raise awareness
about climate change, their Hobbesian character has also found a receptive
audience among defence professionals who perceive climate change as an
emerging national security threat. Military think tanks, for instance, have been
developing scenarios in which climate change generates terrorism, political
radicalisation, and internationally-destabilizing levels of human migration. This
chapter argues that this climatic turn in defence policy discourse has emerged not only out of the need to (re)legitimate hegemonic power, but also because
mainstream apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change constructs the unmitigated
future as a state of global emergency. To explore these concerns, I consider the
interplay between popular apocalyptic rhetoric and the emerging field of climate