Letter From the Editors

JIA Editorial Board
February 11, 2020

For a generation that came of age when Climate Change represented an established, undisputed fact, a sense of optimism pervaded thinking about the earth’s future. Textbooks taught us that the world had already woken up to what was happening. All that remained, we were led to believe, was finding a workable solution. This was a technocratic problem, and there was little doubt human ingenuity would prevail. 

In recent years that optimism has crumbled. Climate skepticism has surged across the globe. Armed with a new pseudo-science, a wave of resurgent demagogues paints climate change with the brush of hyperbole and partisanship. Even those political leaders sympathetic to climate change have made environmental goals secondary to economic output. The rise of a new generation of climate activists offers hope. But it also reflects how dire today’s state of affairs is. As political leaders across the globe dither, the world stumbles towards toward crisis, already seen in increasingly frequent and more intense storms, droughts, wildfires, and floods.

This sense of urgency drove the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Affairs to dedicate its latest issue, Volume 73, No. 1, to climate change—with one caveat. We have shed the old name. Climate Change portrays the path we are on in neutral terms. This is false. It misleads, and it pacifies. Climate Disruption represents a threat to all of humanity, and some populations more than others. We can no longer afford complacency. 

Climate Disruption: Bridging the Gap Between Awareness and Solutions approaches this issue from the perspectives of both action and advocacy. A new generation of activists, journalist, political leaders, and citizens will have to fight not just to develop technical solutions, but also to drive a new consensus. Climate Disruption is not just a technical or scientific challenge. It is also a political challenge of the highest order. 

Does the Journal of International Affairs risk slipping from academia into activism? We do not recognize the distinction. The purpose of all academic work is to reveal knowledge and to inform better decision-making. Volume 73, No. 1 merely represents the latest step in the Journal of International Affairs’s long history of bringing together leading scholarship on the most pressing international political issues of the day.


—The 2019-2020 Editorial Board