LatestWe are not moving fast enough on climate crisis; US

We are not moving fast enough on climate crisis; US

The US government published its Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA) around the end of 2023. The Fifth Assessment, which summarizes the effects of climate change on the United States semi-regularly, was noteworthy because it was the first to include a chapter on social systems and justice.

The fifth NCA, which is based on decades of social science research on climate change, challenges two realities that are becoming more widely acknowledged in academic and popular discourse in the United States.

The first is that Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and low-income groups may experience worsening health, social, and economic consequences as a result of climate change. The second is that social structures and systems, such as political, social, religious, and commercial ones, are the only settings in which flexibility and mitigation can occur.

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To acknowledge that we are not in the same boat, even though we are suffering the same storm, all it takes is comparing the mortality rates for the COVID-19 pandemic broken down by race, income, and other axes of inequality. Today, following a significant hurricane, people’s likelihood of being permanently moved is mostly determined by their race and money. Forcible displacement can have detrimental effects on people for many generations.

To ensure that society’s transition to a new world is just and to slow down the effects of a rapidly warmer Earth, it is imperative to understand how current social systems both influence and are influenced by climate change.

And it’s undeniable that we are living in a different planet

Not moving fast enough

Numerous years of scientific study have demonstrated that we are facing more severe and swift changes in the climate, such as stronger hurricanes, droughts, and floods.

It is not sustainable to continue using resources at the current rates, especially in the Global North and in major emerging nations. To be clear, the world is taking action to mitigate these dangers; just in the United States, annual greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 13% between 2005 and 2019. However, this action is insufficient.

The question of why belongs to social scientists, who are the experts on human society and social interactions in all of their complexity. 

What is it in the world’s ethics, economies, cultures, and symbols that make it so hard to change and make a positive impact? Why do most of us—individuals, groups, civilizations, and countries—seem incapable of reducing emissions at the rates required to save our planet and ourselves?

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New knowledge and technological advancements made by physical scientists and engineers can only partially address these problems. We also need to comprehend human behaviour. If you don’t comprehend how social, economic, and political decisions made, as well as how some groups can form habits that result in lower rates of emissions and consumption, then having new technology doesn’t matter.

We are aware that unequal systems lead to unequal risk distribution and response capacities. For instance, the socioeconomic circumstances of the country where a hurricane makes landfall have a greater bearing on the storm’s mortality rates than does the strength scale of the hurricane. The only way to address climate change without further entrenching ingrained tendencies toward racist, sexist, and classist landscapes of vulnerability is to comprehend these processes.

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