"The main political debates have failed to recognize that human impacts on the environment have reached a critical stage."
Human pressures on Earth have introduced "a new domain of risk" to global civilization, comparable to the 2008 recession, warns a report released Tuesday.
Climate change, biodiversity loss, soil infertility, deforestation, and ocean acidification are among the man-made threats affecting agriculture, energy, public health, economic growth, and immigration. Current disruptions to the environment could seriously destabilize those sectors, likely to amplify social conflicts and cause widespread civic unrest, according to the report.
These new findings from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a UK-based think tank, suggest that any of these risks is poised to set off a chain reaction that could create a global crisis that is greater than the sum of each of the problems individually.
Written by IPPR researchers Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Lesley Rankin and Darren Baxter, the paper compared the potential risk to the Great Recession of 2008, which occurred when the US subprime mortgage crisis turned into a global financial disaster.
A potential example of a trigger is a sudden crash in carbon assets, due to their role in greenhouse gas emissions. If carbon prices fall rapidly to keep pace with carbon budget caps, it could have dominating effects on the entire global economy.
The insurance industry and financial institutions could also become volatile. Insurers are already struggling to adapt to the increase in property losses and accidents from extreme weather events. Weather-related natural disasters are expected to intensify, potentially exposing companies to accumulating a surplus of claims.
“At the extreme, environmental breakdown could trigger catastrophic degradation of human systems, fueling a rapid process of 'uncontrolled collapse' in which economic, social and political shocks cascade through the linked system globally, in the same way that occurred after the global financial crisis of 2007/08, "the authors said.
The report referred to worrisome global trends, such as a 15-fold increase in flooding since 1950, the substantial degradation of three-quarters of the Earth, and the fact that 20 of the previous 22 years have been the warmest ever. have registered.
The authors called for a "Green New Deal," which they described as "a major economic stimulus program" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while addressing social and economic problems such as poverty and public health.
This echoes the main arc of the Green New Deal resolution proposed last week by US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.
Both the IPPR report and the GND resolution frame progressive social and economic goals as an essential part of environmental policy. They also reverse a long tradition of shaping environmental policy to reflect what is feasible for the economy by suggesting instead that economic policy should be shaped on the basis of what is feasible for the environment.
This argument is based on the unprecedented changes that the Earth is experiencing due to human activity, which could destabilize both the environmental and economic sectors.
"Major political debates have failed to recognize that human impacts on the environment have reached a critical stage, which could erode the conditions under which socio-economic stability is possible," the IPPR report said. "The historical ignorance of environmental considerations in most areas of politics has been a catastrophic mistake."
Original article (in English)