This project introduces carbon language (the language of deep decarbonization) as a e.g. a political theory of effective climate mitigation.
Analyzed in isolation, unprecedented existential interdependent global governance risks may remain unsolved in theory precisely because they are unprecedented; or, even if solved in theory, at least unmitigated in practice. Yet mitigation is an implementation, not only a theory, problem; analyzed together, climate and AI may become solvable at least in theory. The link between both problems suggested here is, at its root: language. In substance, both problems are linked in their governance structures: Both are time-delayed legal collective action problems. Climate change and AI are linked through significant feedback effects because all technology, including future human-level artificial general intelligence (AGI), is located in the climate system. We can therefore use a climate perspective to learn about (future) technology. And nearly all climate-relevant decision-making processes even today involve AI in some form. We can use tech perspectives to learn about future dynamics of climate-relevant (in)action. Future research, to which this film only serves as somewhat self-ironic introduction, will focus on the idea of time and use music as an example of learning language. On a more somber note, this film asks the one question that a solipsist linguistic theory will never be able to ask (because no questions are possible anymore after the Self extinguishes itself): Taking the example of David Buckel, an architect of the freedom to marry and marriage equality movement, who burnt himself to death in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, in April 2018 in the first political self-immolation in the U.S. in the name of climate change. This may strike some as overly doomy or not helpful, but facing reality is the only way to change it, and film/music or other time-based media can offer outlooks and convey emotions that go beyond mere words and logic.
Why treat systemic problems so systematically? Why not leave larger-than-human challenges aside, to focus on manageable problems that individuals can realistically solve? This film argues that only if, and in as far as, we seek to empathize within the limits of our respective languages in order to understand other individuals’ decisions – here the final decision of one lawyer in New York – can we then claim the ethical and intellectual license to ask questions about the fates of literally billions of people, as we do and must in climate policy. Over the coming decade, those who take truly climate-relevant decisions in legal, political, and economic systems around the globe will effectively decide how much of Earth will eventually become become uninhabitable how fast. Not “we” – the mythical we of climate communications – will take the truly relevant decisions, but a small group of legislators, policymakers, and investors, all of whom act under certain binding legal norms. This is the context in which “norms” and “language” are used in this research.