A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the UK’s Royal Institute of International Affairs – Chatham House warned that the world could fall into a climate “doom loop” if it continues without taking stronger actions against climate change.
What’s a Climate Doom Loop?
A climate doom loop refers to a self-perpetuating cycle of feedback between climate change and human actions, which could have catastrophic and irreversible consequences for the planet. The term was coined by economist Nicholas Stern and refers to the idea that climate change could trigger a series of events that exacerbate its impacts, creating a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse.
For example, as the planet warms, permafrost in the Arctic begins to melt, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. This, in turn, accelerates global warming, which further melts the permafrost, releasing more methane, etc. Another example is the loss of ice in the polar regions, which reduces the planet’s reflectivity, or albedo, leading to greater absorption of solar radiation and further warming.
Human actions can also contribute to a catastrophic climate loop. For example, deforestation and land use changes release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. As the planet warms, forests and other natural ecosystems become more vulnerable to fires, pests and disease, which can lead to further deforestation and carbon emissions.
The climate catastrophe loop highlights the urgency of collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the impacts of climate change. It also highlights the importance of investing in adaptation measures to help communities and ecosystems cope with the inevitable effects of climate change.
One of the issues the report cites is the debate over whether to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C. The researchers warn that this debate runs some risks in its narrative among world leaders, such as perpetuating weak actions to curb the climate crisis, which would bring more serious consequences.
According to the report, “the consequences of the climate crisis divert attention and resources from addressing its causes, leading to higher temperatures and ecological loss, which then create more serious consequences, further diverting attention and resources.”
Bob Ward, a research fellow at the London School of Economics Grantham Institute of Climate Change, told The Guardian that the value of the report is that the probability of global temperatures rising by more than 1.5°C “does not mean we should leave the target. Our primary goal should remain radical emissions cuts to try and avoid going above 1.5°C, but now we should also consider what happens if we continue to fail.”
Another of the issues that the report addresses are the need for global climate and political justice, which takes into account that the “green transition” must be affordable for all populations. The document points out that, for example, in Africa, 15% of GDP is being lost due to factors associated with climate change.
Climate and ecological crisis
For her part, Laurie Laybourn, a member of the IPPR, mentioned that citizen participation to address issues of the climate crisis is crucial. “I’m a big 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 where shocks start to mount. They become moments where we really build back better.”
For Laybourn we have entered a “new chapter in the climate and ecological crisis. Absolutely, we can drive towards a more sustainable and equitable world. But our ability to navigate through the shocks while staying focused on avoiding the storm is key.”
“For the UK, it may not necessarily be the full cost of responding to disasters that is the biggest distraction,” he said. “It could be that he has to deal with a food price shock and a resurgence of nativism at the same time, allaying fears about so-called climate refugees.”
He added: “If you have equity at the heart of things, it can instead be a virtuous circle, if you find yourself in a situation where people recognize that switching to a heat pump and having better insulation is going to be better for them. regardless of the climate crisis.”
Why +1.5°C and not +2°C?
It is not necessarily obvious to know what a world warmed up by +1.5°C or 2°C since the beginning of the industrial era would induce. Let us first recall that these 2 temperatures are political constructions, put forward during the Paris Agreement. It is not the planet that has decided that +1.5 or +2°C is needed, but policies that negotiate the future of life on planet Earth.
Keeping warming well below +2°C is not a utopian whim, but a fact signed by all parties to the Paris Agreement and made explicit in article 2:
Containing the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, with the understanding that this would significantly reduce the risks and effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, U.S. homeowners living in flood-prone areas also risk losing billions of dollars in equity as weather-fueled storms increase flood damage, which in turn drains income from homes. local governments that rely on property taxes for their budgets, a study finds. published Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Low-income homeowners stand to lose the most, according to the study.
These budget shortfalls could force governments to make tough decisions about what receives and does not receive funding, Jeremy Porter, co-author of the Nature study, told The Washington Post. “It could mean less revenue for infrastructure, for schools, for social services,” he said. “It actually impacts the whole community.”
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