The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published a damning report on the current state of mainstream political proposals, saying they have much to be desired when it comes to tackling the crisis we are facing. And while we have seen some progress, much still needs to be done.
“Human-induced environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace and the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes in societies around the world is rapidly closing,” the summary of the report states. “These outcomes include economic instability, large-scale involuntary migration, conflict, famine and the potential collapse of social and economic systems. The historical disregard of environmental considerations in most areas of policy has been a catastrophic mistake.”
The researchers behind the report argue that three changes need to occur in the political and policymaking communities to see a meaningful shift in how we tackle these problems. First of all, lawmakers need to understand the scale and pace of environmental changes. The age of environmental breakdown is upon us.
Global vertebrate populations have fallen by 60 percent since the 1970s. We are losing topsoil at least 10 times (but potentially up to 40 times) faster than it can be naturally replenished. Since the 1950s, we have lost 30 percent of the world’s arable land due to erosion. The IPPR report on climate change tells policymakers that we have at most 120 years to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming. The changes might be gradual or they might be abrupt, but the destabilization of the climate is here to stay.
The second change is for policymakers to seriously consider what the implications of the environmental issues are. These have impacts on both the global level and the local level, and will likely exacerbate current economic trends like wealth inequalities. We are already seeing climate migrants, and their numbers will only continue to increase.
The final shift actually delivers a true transformational response. Yes, we need to make changes to our lives, our policies, and our countries, but these need to be both sustainable and for everyone, not just a privileged few. New policies also need to work in a way that makes us more prepared for the turbulent times ahead. And this is not limited to environmental policies. Infrastructures, markets, social cohesion, political processes, and global co-operation need to be looked at in terms of how we have changed our planet.