Publication Type:Conference Paper
Source:4S 2009 Annual Meeting of the The Society Society for Social Studies of Science (2009)
Keywords:Actor-Network Theory, Carbon, CO2, Discourse Analysis, Materiality, Sustainability
The paper explores the material and metaphoric translations of CO2 (Carbon in the general parlance of the regime!) in the technopolitical construction of sustainability in climate change. It is a part of a larger project that explores how the Brundtland Commission's conception of sustainable development as the authoritative guiding principle of economic and social development (Lafferty& Meadowcroft 2000) is mediated through definitions, practices and instruments in the climate change regime.
The emergent form of environmental governance in climate change under the aegis of UNFCCC is subjected to varying contestations particularly on the competence of its instruments in facilitating its underlying objectives _ effective climate change mitigation through carbon offsets and the fostering of sustainable development (Bachram 2004; Byrne and Glover 2000; Christoff 2006; Lövbrand et al. 2007; Oslen 2005; Roberts and Parks 2007; Wara 2007; 2008). While the possible reasons for the shortcomings and the potential solutions to address these identified shortfalls are explored widely, there is a lacuna in the current research on how the regime operationally includes and excludes these concerns despite these being focal objectives. The proposed paper, in its larger context, identifies this as a significant domain of technopolitical process wherein it argues that the regime frames definitions of its institutional objectives, procedures and practices in such a way that actors make sense of the regime through certain ways of translating materialities and practices into a network of interrelations.
Drawing the insights from a discourse analytical perspective, the paper identifies climate change as an emblematic issue (Hajer 1995) in the current environmental discourses, and analyze the dominant discourse in the light of the symmetry of humans and non-humans and the idea of materialities in the Actor Network Theory (ANT). The paper looks into material translation of sustainability in the climate change regime citing the case of carbon. The paper points at carbon (CO2) within the climate change discourses to find that it is not only a chemical compound of a carbon and two oxygen atoms bonded together, it becomes a network through which a set of multivalent relations are mediated. It transforms to be a fungible commodity (MacKenzie 2008), a metaphor, a medium of economic transactions and a material outcome of a set of socionatural relations.