Dr. Martin Mahony

Martin Mahony holds a PhD in Human Geography and Science & Technology Studies (STS) from the University of East Anglia (2013) where he worked on what he calls the epistemic geographies of climate change: the ways in which knowledge is produced and circulated through practices such as scientific assessments, computer simulation and visualisation. He now works in the Department of Geography at King’s College London where he has developed his interests in the visual cultures of climate, the institutionalisation of computer simulation and the colonial history of the atmospheric sciences. Recent papers include: “Climate change and the geographies of objectivity: the case of the IPCC’s burning embers diagram”. In: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 2014 (online); “The predictive state: science, territory and the future of the Indian climate”. In: Social Studies of Science, 44(1), 2014, pp. 109-133. (Written while a Fellow of the Harvard STS Program, fall 2012).



Resolution: Regional Climate Modelling and the Visibility of Climate Change

Global climate models have developed in tandem with an increasingly global vision of how climate change should be understood and dealt with. Yet climate change has also been framed as an issue requiring local actions to mitigate its causes and manage its effects. In this context, regional climate modelling has emerged as a key scientific practice in the borderlands of science and politics, yet it is a practice neglected in social and cultural studies of the production and circulation of climate change knowledges. Between the late 1980s and the early 2000s, the idea of modelling the climate system on a regional scale quietly developed in and between a few research centres in North America and Europe. The technique was pursued initially in order to try and characterise future climatic changes over discrete geographic spaces, such as sites for proposed nuclear waste storage facilities. The increased spatial resolution of these models was thought to offer more realistic simulations of local topography and therefore of local climate. As confidence in the models grew they began to be applied in service of national and regional climate change impact assessments world-wide, offering new visions of climatic futures over the next few decades.

I’m interested in exploring the history of how regional climate modelling came to offer a new kind of ‘political vision’ of climate change. By examining the institutionalisation of climate prediction in the UK and the subsequent development of a new visual culture of high resolution, regional cartographies of climate change, the project will offer new understandings of how climate change has been rendered governable.  The emergence of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in 1990 marked a key moment in the development of what would come to be called ‘climate services’, an idea now prominent in scientific boundary organisations in northern Germany. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with key actors, I aim to examine an emerging politics of resolution as climate simulation has been positioned as a key part of governmental decision-making in the UK and Germany.