Climate change is a global problem—one that experts agree can be addressed only through global cooperation. Yet the potential economic and political disruptions created by climate change could make such cooperation increasingly challenging. So argues a recent paper, “Sociopolitical Feedbacks and Climate Change,” co-authored by professor Michael Livermore of the University’s School of Law and published in Harvard Environmental Law Review. The authors outline examples of economic and political “disruption pathways”—from the economic fallout of crop failures and flooding to political crises precipitated by refugees fleeing the effects of climate change—that have the potential to create adverse, self-reinforcing feedback loops: Disruptions reduce the ability or willingness of nations to engage in mitigation efforts, leading to continued worsening of climate-change effects, leading to further economic and political instability. The result, the authors argue, could be that “it may become impossible to muster the coordinated global response necessary to avoid even more severe risks in the future.” The potential for such future disruptions adds even greater urgency to the need for global action against climate change now, the authors write, proposing that “humankind is wasting a short window of opportunity to address climate change … that may soon shut as climate damages incapacitate effective political action.”
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