National commitments are failing to save us from the coming catastrophe

Climate Change

Rapid economic and demographic growth have reached planetary boundaries, causing warming polar regions, floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, rising sea levels, a collapse in biodiversity, increasing famines and water shortages, and climate-fueled displacement. The present voluntary approach to climate change has been a failure. Now, we must pivot to a globally integrated approach with binding measures. Immediate action is necessary, as scientists estimate we have only a decade before accelerating climate damage becomes uncontrollable.
Rapid economic and demographic growth have reached planetary boundaries, causing warming polar regions, floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, rising sea levels, a collapse in biodiversity, increasing famines and water shortages, and climate-fueled displacement. The present voluntary approach to climate change has been a failure. Now, we must pivot to a globally integrated approach with binding measures. Immediate action is necessary, as scientists estimate we have only a decade before accelerating climate damage becomes uncontrollable.

Most carbon emissions in the major greenhouse gases come from fossil fuels containing carbon stored deep in the earth from past geological epochs. A smaller fraction comes from agriculture, livestock, land use change and deforestation when the carbon sinks in nature are turned into carbon sources. Greenhouse gas emissions are thus closely related to industrialization, high energy use and transportation requiring fossil fuels, and are thus associated with wealth and consumer lifestyles. This is where both the need and potential for emission reductions lie.

The effects of climate change include higher temperatures which can ultimately make parts of the tropics uninhabitable; rising sea levels which will displace hundreds of millions from low-lying coastal areas, islands and port cities and stronger cyclonic storms in the sub-tropics. We can also expect to see more extremes of both flooding and drought, tropical forests giving way to savannahs and the destruction of coral reefs and their fisheries. These crises will predominantly affect developing countries and poor people who have the least capacity to protect themselves or adapt. Resources that could have been used to improve their lives will have to go instead to rebuilding. Those who contributed the least to the crisis will pay the highest price. This is why climate justice is so important, and global governance the necessary mechanism to give it form.

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This book’s trenchant analysis of what ails the running of the globe should be read by policymakers everywhere, and certainly by those many citizens who concern themselves with fostering a better and more functional world. Change comes slowly, but this book is a prodding catalyst.

Robert I. Rotberg, Harvard Kennedy School, author of On Governance

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