Climate Mathematics


  • Key MacFarlane University of California, Santa Cruz


climate, mathematics, politics, algebra, fractals, geometry


This essay is a critical response to Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright’s (2018) Climate Leviathan. It focuses on the political alternative fleshed out towards the end of the book: “Climate X.” For Mann and Wainwright, X is a variable to “solve for.” I seek to take this seriously as a mathematical statement, exploring the extent to which a politics of Climate X can be considered algebraic, especially in light of Mann and Wainwright’s references to “fragments” in the work of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. The book’s algebraic approach, I argue, reduces the fragment (X), and politics along with it, to something numerable. From a different reading of Adorno and Benjamin, I show how two other fields of mathematics—set theory and fractal geometry—help address some of the pitfalls of Climate X, while pointing towards another climate politics that embraces deviation, infinity, and nothingness.


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How to Cite

MacFarlane, K. (2019). Climate Mathematics. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(4), 803–815. Retrieved from