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World at risk of descending into climate ‘doom loop’

A new report has warned that governments could soon be so overwhelmed with the consequences of the environmental crisis that they’re unable to address its root causes.

Last week, two UK-based thinktanks released a report warning that the world is at risk of descending into what it calls a climate ‘doom loop’ if it doesn’t urgently re-align its priorities.

Researchers from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Chatham House said that by centring on short-term coping measures, governments are on course to becoming so overwhelmed with the consequences of the environmental crisis that they’re in danger of exacerbating it.

In other words, with climate change already imposing enormous costs on nations as they deal with increasingly destructive natural disasters, leaders are beginning to dial back or even abandon their efforts to reduce their country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

By failing to address the root causes of these issues and instead focusing on current food and energy shortages, migration, and flooding, they have created a self-reinforcing cycle that could lead to larger economic burdens in the future.

‘This is a doom loop,’ the researchers wrote in their report, which states that those arguing 1.5°C is still possible are perpetuating complacency that today’s slow pace of action is sufficient and that those arguing the contrary are supporting fatalism that little can now be done.

‘The consequences of the crisis and the failure to address it draw focus and resources from tackling its causes, leading to higher temperatures and ecological loss, which then create more severe consequences, diverting even more attention and resources, and so on,’ it continues.

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‘We could get to the point where societies are faced with relentless disasters and crises, and all the other problems that the climate and ecological crisis is bringing and will increasingly distract them from delivering decarbonization.’

In the report, the researchers point to Africa as an example of how this dynamic is playing out in real time.

It notes that global warming impacts are costing the whole continent upwards of 15 per cent of its annual GDP growth per capita, making it harder for countries to invest in clean technologies that may initially be more expensive to install.

Because they need money, some African leaders are even considering potentially lucrative deals with international oil and gas companies to allow for new fossil fuel production, which has unsurprisingly drawn harsh criticism from environmental activists.

‘Those costs just become even more insurmountable,’ author Laurie Laybourn tells the Washington Post.

‘In that situation, you are eroding the ability of countries across Africa and other parts of the world to be able to deliver more prosperous — and of course sustainable — conditions.’

Earth could enter 'doom loop' stage of climate crisis, report warns - The Washington Post

As he explains, in order to drive towards a more sustainable world, our ability to navigate through the ‘shocks’ that are undermining humanity’s capacity to tackle the crisis while working to ‘steer out the storm’ is key.

It’s his belief that regardless of whether or not we enter into a ‘doom loop,’ we aren’t ‘doomed’ because we ultimately have control over how we respond to destabilizing catastrophes.

With this in mind, he emphasises that people’s emotional reactions are just as important as policy actions.

This, and that more fairness from politicians still reluctant to accept the threats posed by climate change, including the looming prospect of tipping points and the huge scale of societal transformation essential to end global warming, is required.

‘If you have fairness at the heart of things, it can instead be a virtuous circle,’ says Laybourn.

‘I’m a massive fan of citizens’ assemblies, because if people feel they have a role in decision making, they’re more likely to maintain their support, even in a future in which the shocks start to rack up. They become moments where we actually do build back better.’