[This is the text of my participation in the video also featuring the presentations of Nina Czegledy, Roberta Buiani, Ian Clothier and Elena Giulia Rossi, that was performed in the online panel “The ocean that keeps us apart also joins us: charting knowledge and practice in the Anthropocene”, at ISEA 2020 “Why Sentience?” (Montreal, 14 October 2020), here the abstract of the panel. The panel, moderated by Pat Badani, debated the issues addressed in the event “From the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Dialogues through the seas”, held in Cervia in July 2018 at the Salt Museum on the impact of climate change on the sea level in occasion of the three-year research project art*science – Art & Climate Change opening.]
Climate is a complex system since it emerges as the concurrent action of quantities of elements. Its behavior is intrinsically difficult to model due to the interactions between its parts or between the system and its environment.
We have many indicators of a climate crisis. The average world temperature is rising (fig. 1). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) within the next 12 years it is essential not to exceed an increase of 1.5 °C, considered by the scientists as the limit to avoid the threat of the tipping points for human and non-human systems .
In 2013, for the first time since the Pliocene, that is from 3 to 5 million years ago, the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has been exceeding 400 parts per million , and since 2014 it is consistently above this value (fig. 2).
We are quickly going back to the climate conditions of that world. In the Pliocene humans did not exist, Earth was about 3–4 °C warmer than today (the poles up to 10 °C more) and the sea level was 5 to 40 meters higher . And recent research goes even backward: by 2025 the Earth would be likely to have even worse CO2 conditions .
Our project art*science – Art & Climate Change, started in 2018, has activated a three-year research program (2018-2021) , with conferences and exhibitions where art and science collaborate to imagine the future. Cultural institutions, scientists, artists, researchers are asked for focussing together on the environment transformations and on their geographical, ecological, economic and cultural consequences. Until now four events have been organized in Italian cities: in Cervia the topic was the sea level rising and impact; in Rome it was the relevance of data in climate study and research; in Urbino, at the Fine Arts Academy, along a week of conferences and workshops with the students, the topic was a possible role of the communities in the climate emergency; and in Bologna it was the role that fear can play in the climate crisis.
Environment, animal and vegetal life and humans activities are intimately interconnected, requiring the collaboration of scientific disciplines and humanities, including the knowledge base of indigenous and ethnic minorities. Therefore a transdisciplinary approach to overcome the distance that often exists among different disciplines is needed, a constructive synthesis that goes beyond a mere collaboration. The concept of “transdisciplinarity” was introduced by Jean Piaget in 1970, and recently its meaning has been discussed in the field of science by Bernard Choi and Anita Pak , who confronted it with concepts like “multidisciplinarity” and “interdisciplinarity”, whose meaning is often considered as analogue or interchangeable. The difference among these concepts is illustrated in fig. 3.
A main issue related to Climate Change is the rising of the sea level, as indicated in fig. 4. This implies a dramatic transformation of the environment, flora, fauna, and human local life conditions . The first art*science event was held on this topic in Cervia, Italy, a coastal town in the northern Adriatic Sea, where researches report that by 2100 the sea could rise up to 1,5 meters  (fig. 5, 6). The event in Cervia was entitled “From the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Dialogues across the Seas” , and was made in conjunction with “Vital Transformations”, a series of events on art and climate change taking place in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Italy and New Zealand are almost geographically in opposition on Earth, but they are ideally connected by the seas, because they both vastly rely on their sea environments. Therefore an ideal bridge was built between geographically distant places, a dialogue between different cultures on the common topic of sea and climate, that is global and local at the same time.
In order to preserve on Earth the climate situation that for millennia has supported humans from their descent to the current pervasiveness, it should be mandatory to act resolutely, globally and univocally, towards common and shared goals, which involve politics, economy, and more in deep the human culture up to the behavior of the single individuals. A reflection about time is needed, on the gap between the typically human ability of imagining the future and the urgency to contrast the climate crisis . As humans we are able to project ourselves into a future that concerns and includes our lives: we continuously do it. But the challenge of the climate crisis requires a perspective able to go beyond the generations, into an extended and intergenerational time that overcomes the biological lifetime of many, in a constant, coordinated, cooperative and selfless planning and action projected into a long term future. A commitment that unfolds with great uncertainty, in an event horizon where many will not be there.
The Anthropocene imposes a reflection about the time span of the human species and cultures in contrast to that of the individuals, requires a vision extended to a remote future that should be governed knowing that people will not be part of it. This implies a cognitive leap, a different consideration of humanity and its relationship with the “non human” and the environment, intended as a complex dynamic intercourse, towards a further level of awareness in a new pact with the existing. In the Anthropocene humanity must go beyond itself, beyond what largely has been its nature and culture from its rising to its questionable success on Earth .
Assuming that all this can be possible, it will not be a painless process.
1) See: Ruth Lorenz, Zélie Stalhandske, Erich M. Fischer, “Detection of a Climate Change Signal in Extreme Heat, Heat Stress, and Cold in Europe From Observations”, Geophysical Research Letters, n. 14, vol. 46, 28/07/19, pp. 8363–8374, online https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL082062 (Last accessed 01/07/20); Valerie Masson-Delmotte et al. (eds.), IPCC, 2018: Global Warming of 1.5 °C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, cit. Also Richard Conniff, “The Last Resort”, Scientific American, cit.; William J. Ripple, et al., “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency”, BioScience, 05/11/19, online https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088 (Last accessed 07/07/20). On the climate tipping points see Timothy M. Lenton et al., “Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against”, Nature, vol. 575, 28 November 2019. Also online, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0?fbclid=IwAR0QkmPlYf0sjFDpSOgfCMytRbOWmw-0r5pL-KWd-W7AgIkEMmxTQA1CrGU (Last accessed 6/07/20). [back]
2) See: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Global Monthly Mean CO2”, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Global Monitoring Division, 5 November 2019, online https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html#global (Last accessed 07/07/20). Rebecca Lindsey, “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”, NOAA Climate.gov, 19/09/19, online https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide (Last accessed 17/07/20). Also the dedicated Website CO2.Earth, https://www.co2.earth (Last accessed 17/07/20). [back]
3) NASA Climate Change, “Graphic: Carbon dioxide hits new high”, NASA Global Climate Change, online https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/7/graphic-carbon-dioxide-hits-new-high/ (Last accessed 06/06/20). [back]
4) Elwyn de la Vega et al., “Atmospheric co2 during the Mid-piacenzian Warm period and the M2 glaciation”, Scientific Reports, Vol. 10, n. 11002, 2020, also online https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67154-8 (Last access 19/07/20). [back]
6) Bernard C. K. Choi, Anita W.P. Pak, “Multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in health research, services, education and policy: 1. Definitions, objectives, and evidence of effectiveness.”, Clin Invest Med, n. 29 (6), 2006, pp. 351–364. [back]
7) Hans-Otto Pörtner et al. (eds.), IPCC, 2019: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2019, https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/ (Last access 15/07/20). In particular the Chapter 4: Michael Oppenheimer, Bruce C. Glavovic (eds.), “Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low-lying Islands, Coasts and Communities”, pp. 321–445. [back]
8) Ministero dell’Ambiente e della tutela del Territorio e del mare (Ministry of the Environment and Protection of the Territory and the Sea), Cambiamenti Climatici. Conferenza Nazionale 2007 (Climate Change. National Conference 2007), Rome, APAT, 2007; A.Alessandri et al., “Robust assessment of the expansion and retreat of Mediterranean climate in the 21st century”, Nature Scientific Reports, 4, 7211, 2015; K. Lambeck et al., “Sea level change along the Italian coast during the Holocene and projections for the future”, Quaternary International, Vol. 232, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2011, pp. 250-257; F. Antonioli et al., “Sea-level rise and potential drowning of the Italian coastal plains: Flooding risk scenarios for 2100”, Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 158, 15 February 2017, pp. 29-43. [back]
9) About the event see https://artscience.online/2018/07/18/dal-mediterraneo-al-pacifico-dialoghi-attraverso-i-mari-from-the-mediterranean-to-the-pacific-dialogues-across-the-seas/ (Last access, 19/07/20). [back]
10) Climate Change has also been called global heating and climate emergency to make it more dramatic and generate a greater psychological impact. The Guardian shared the proposal to use the term Climate crisis, used by many scientific, political and public figures, including Greta Thunberg. See Damian Carrington, “Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment”, The Guardian, 17 May 2019, online https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/17/why-the-guardian-is-changing-the-language-it-uses-about-the-environment?CMP=share_btn_tw (Last accessed 15/07/20). [back]
11) On the cultural issues of Climate Change and Anthropocene see Pier Luigi Capucci, “Ambiguous humanity. Some reflections between hope and future starting from Greta Thunberg”, Noema, 06 January 2020, online, https://noemalab.eu/ideas/ambiguous-humanity-some-reflections-between-hope-and-future-starting-from-greta-thunberg/ (Last access, 18/07/20). [back]