What is Earth system science?

History, scientific practices and politics

Organization : Hélène Guillemot (CNRS, CAK) and Sébastien Dutreuil (CNRS, CGGG).

► The workshop will be held in French and English

► Free entrance, no registration required

Over the recent years, the authority of “Earth system science” (ESS) has been frequently called upon in debates dealing with major global environmental issues – e.g. emerging concepts such as the “Anthropocene” or “planetary boundaries” have been presented as being grounded in this “science”. Yet neither the definition of the “Earth system” nor the status of “Earth system science” seem clear – be it for the historians and sociologists of science, or even for the scientists and actors of ESS. What do the “Earth system” refer to? What do the label “ESS”, which appeared in the 1980’s, recover? Does it refer to a new type of knowledge? A new disciplinary division within the Earth sciences? Or a new relationship between the sciences and politics, leading to a new planetary management?

The aim of this workshop organized under the umbrella of the project “Environmental humanities at the time of the Anthropocene” is to question this scientific domain which remains largely unexplored by the social sciences, by gathering historians and social scientists, climatologists, paleoclimatologists and other actors of “ESS”. Without pretending to be exhaustive, we will seek: to trace the history of the recent emergence of ESS and of its institutional context, but also to give a longer-term historical perspective; to specify the scientific practices covered by the label “ESS”; to examine the so-called “Earth System Models” and to question their “systemic” aspect; finally we will analyze the philosophical and political dimensions linked with the emergence of ESS.



9h. Introduction by Hélène Guillemot (CNRS – CAK) and Sébastien Dutreuil (CNRS – GGG)


Session 1 – History of Earth System Sciences

9h30. Jean-Baptiste Fressoz (CNRS – Centre de Recherches Historiques)

« La terre est un animal »

10h10. Fabrizio Li Vigni (EHESS – Groupe de Sociologie Pragmatique et Réflexive)
Une histoire des sciences des systèmes complexes, horizon de rétrospection des sciences du système Terre

10h50. Coffee break

11h10. Sébastien Dutreuil (CNRS – GGG)
What is Earth system science? A metaphysics and politics of the Earth


Session 2 – Practices of Earth System Sciences and Modeling

11h50. Timothy Lenton (University of Exeter)
A practitioner’s view of Earth system science

12h30- 14h. Lunch at the CAK

14h. Pascale Braconnot (CEA – Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement)
Models to explore past, present and future climate variations

14h40. Laurent Bopp (ENS Paris – Département de Géosciences)
From Climate Models to Earth System Models: a 20-year adventure told from the inside with a focus on marine science

15h20. Jérôme Gaillardet (Université Paris Diderot – Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris)
From Critical Zone to Critical Zones: terrestrial components of the ESS

16h. Coffee break


Session 3 – Earth System Politics

16h20. Eva Lövbrand (Linköping University)
The Anthropocene and the Geopolitical Imagination

17h. Bruno Latour (Sciences Po Paris)
Which Social Theory May Help Understand Gaia?

17h40. Conclusion by Amy Dahan (CNRS – CAK)

More informations

  • Monday 8 October 2018 - 09:00 to 18:00
  • Centre Alexandre-Koyré, 27 rue Damesme, 75013 Paris
  • marlon.aprosio@ehess.fr