Political leaders tell us not to worry; today’s problems can always be fixed up tomorrow. We can have our cake and eat it. But what if our actions today produce irreversible changes in the way the Earth system behaves? Maybe ‘waiting for tomorrow’s solutions’ is not the rational thing to do. Quentin Grafton reflects on the consequences.
business as usual
‘Trumpism’ is a bit like crazy ants? Both require certain system conditions for them to become super pests. Throwing Trump in jail won’t remove the threat. The conditions for Trump’s ascendency are still present and will enable the next ‘crazy man’ to do just as much damage. We need to remediate the craziness and address the gaps in society that let so many people believe the system isn’t working for them.
The road ahead is unclear and uncertain. ‘Business as usual’ has us thinking it will be much as it has been in the past but it’s likely humanity is approaching major tipping and turning points.
Turning points make sense of history and are like looking behind in the rearview mirror to better know where we have come from so that we can drive better. Tipping points are about carefully looking at the road in front of us to anticipate the risks ahead and to take appropriate action to avoid the hazards.
What do we know, more or less, for sure about the future? First, the world is getting hotter at a faster rate. Second, maintaining or increasing greenhouse emissions will result in substantial temperature increases within coming decades that entails substantial costs and risks. Third, carbon sequestration, over the coming few decades will only make, at best, a very marginal contribution to lowering atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Fourth, despite the rhetoric, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise to at least 2030. These are our future certainties under business-as-usual. Much of the uncertainty about what the future holds is about what we choose to do about it.
- business as usual
- climate change
- David Salt
- environmental accounts
- Peter Burnett
- Policy lessons