Report on Recent Reports #5, Spring 2023

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June 12, 2023

World of Woes—and Proposed Global Remedies

        The Alliance of World Scientists warns of “code red” on the planet and an unequivocal climate emergency (5:1).  The better-known IPCC Synthesis Report in March warns that adverse climate impacts will continue to intensify and adaptation gaps will continue to grow, along with escalating risks (5:2).  The IEA offers good news that the transition to clean energy is gaining ground, but the bad news that greater efforts and a tripling of spending are needed to 2030 (5:3).  UNICEF tallies the negative impacts on children and youth from the polycrisis, and worries about the potential to “snowball” and lead to system breakdown, while also hoping that we will “step back from the precipice” (5:4).  A UN General Assembly policy brief focuses on ever more complex global shocks, and calls for invoking an Emergency Platform for a relevant international response (5:5).  A High-Level Advisory Board warns that we are failing to address “the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution” and calls for transformative shifts to address these challenges (5:6).  The Coalition for the UN We Need, after extensive consultation, calls for a People’s Pact that focuses on human rights and participation (5:7). WAAS calls for new ways of thinking that focuses on Human Security for all (5:8).  However, a major barrier is the decline of global freedom for the past 17 years, although the struggle for democracy may be at a turning point (5:9).  Finally, the underestimated biodiversity crisis (5:6) continues to be ignored by 20th century economists who do not recognize the costs of natural capital loss (5:10).

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RRR 5:1  World Scientist’s Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022

William J. Ripple, Johan Rockstrom, and 10 Others, BioScience  Special Report, Dec 2022, 1149-1155. 
“We are now at ‘code red’ on planet Earth.  Humanity is unequivocally facing a climate emergency.”  This 30th anniversary of the first World Scientist’s Warning in 1992 notes that current policies are taking the planet to around 3oC by 2100, most planetary boundaries are beyond their safe space, and that the consequences of global heating are increasingly extreme, with plausible outcomes such as global societal collapse.  We are now regularly seeing events and disasters that previously occurred only rarely.  These disasters disproportionately harm poor people in low-income regions who have had minimal contributions to greenhouse gas buildup, e.g. 33 million Pakistanis displaced by 2022 flooding.   Other 2020 disasters included wildfires in Europe, cyclones and floods in Australia, many rivers drying up in China and Europe, powerful storms and flooding in Bangladesh and India, and severe heat waves (or “heat domes”)  in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere.  Tabl e 1 provides brief details of 18 climate disasters from January to October.

[NOTE:  The Warning is sponsored by the Alliance of World Scientists,  which has 27,000 subscribing members in 180 countries.]

RRR 5:2  Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 23 March 2023, 85p; 36p Summary for Policymakers. 
Integrates the main findings of the three Working Groups: on trends and future change, risks and long-term responses, and near-term response.  Human activities have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperatures now at 1.1oC.  (A1) “Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred” in every region worldwide.  Communities that have contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected. (A2)  “Some ecosystems are approaching irreversibility”; adverse impacts from climate change “will continue to intensify” (A2.3).  “Adaptation planning and implementation has progressed across all sectors and regions, with documented benefits and varying effectiveness…(but) adaptation gaps exist and will continue to grow.” (A3)  “Deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in GHG emissions would lead to a discernable showdown in global warming within around two decades.” (B1)  “Global warming will continue to increase in the near term (2021-2040)… (and) is more likely than not to reach 1.5oC under the low emission scenario.” (B1.1) “Risks escalate with every increment in global warming… (and) will increasingly interact, creating compound and cascading risks that are more difficult to manage.” (B2.1)  “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health…Choices and actions in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.” (C1)

RRR 5:3  Global Energy Transitions Stocktake

International Energy Agency, Feb 2023 (unpaginated).
The latest IEA analysis tracking the global transition to clean energy, bringing together updated data in one place, along with forecasts of upcoming events and reports.  Some selected trends and forecasts: 1) Global CO2 emissions grew by 0.9% in 2022, but methane emissions–responsible for about 30% of temperature rise—remained “stubbornly high.”  2)  Heat pump sales grew by nearly 15% in 2021 (35% in the EU), and installations are growing rapidly.  3) Sales of electric cars doubled in2021, mainly due to sustained policy support; public spending on subsidies and incentives for EVs was nearly $30 billion in 2021. 4) Public spending on energy R&D could reach $40 billion in 2022.  5) Government have enacted $1.2 trillion in clean energy investment support since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and have spent a further $630 billion to protect households and businesses from rising energy bills since Fall 2021.  6) Global clean energy investment will rise by >8% in 2022 to $2.4 trillion.  7) The clean energy economy is gaining ground, but greater efforts are needed to reach the IEA’s “Net Zero by 2050” scenario.  8) Half the emissions reductions needed to reach Net Zero come from hundreds of technologies not yet on the market.  9) Meeting all Net Zero pledges on time and in full would result in a 1.7oC rise in 2100. 10) The number of people without access to electricity will rise by nearly 20 million in 2022 to 775 million worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.  [ALSO SEE  World Energy Outlook 2022, IEA, Oct 2022, 524p (RRR 4:4), with a “Roadmap to Net Zero Emissions by 2050” and outlooks for energy demand, electricity, and various fuels, noting that “a tripling in spending on clean energy and infrastructure to 2030” is needed.]

RRR 5:4 Prospects for Children in the Polycrisis: A 2023 Global Outlook

UNICEF Innocenti– Global Office of Research and Foresight and The Atlantic Council, Jan 2023, 53p. 
The third edition of UNICEF’s Global Outlook pairs nine Youth Foresight Fellows with the foresight team, identifying  trends/drivers of shocks and stressors comprising the polycrisis: 1) the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) efforts to tame inflation; 3) food and nutrition insecurity; 4) the worsening energy crisis; 5) underinvestment in children; 6) threats to democratic rights; 7) increasing factionalism; and 8) the internet continuing to fragment and becoming less global.  “A polycrisis has the potential to snowball into further instability and ultimately to systemic breakdown.” (p7)  But it is possible that we will step back from the precipice, many risks will have receded, and the polycrisis precipitates positive change, e.g. medical breakthroughs.  A chart lists the negative impacts of the polycrisis on each of the Sustainable Development Goals, as regards children and youth.

RRR 5:5  Our Common Agenda Policy Brief 2: Strengthening the International Response to Complex Global Shocks—an Emergency Platform 

UN General Assembly (A/77/CRP.1/Add.1), 15 Feb 2023, 28p.
“The challenges we face can only be addressed through stronger international cooperation.”  The Summit of the Future in Sept 2024 is an opportunity to strengthen global governance for present and future generations.  Global shocks in the 21st century are becoming more complex, with more global impacts.  Complex shocks are described as “an event with severely disruptive consequences for a significant proportion of the global population that leads to secondary impacts across multiple sectors.”  The world has recently experienced two complex global shocks: “the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) and the global cost of living crisis (2022).”  Current global dynamics could interact to intensify the impact of a future global shock.  We must be ready to respond to a range of different shocks, such as a major climatic event or a pandemic, that can severe undermine progress towards the SDGs (a chart on p.6 lists recent impacts on each of the SDGs).  Better anticipation is needed with a “Futures Lab”, a Global Risk Report, and authority to invoke an Emergency Platform to promote a relevant international response.

RRR 5:6  A Breakthrough for People and Planet: Effective and Inclusive Global Governance for Today and the Future

UN University, High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism, April 2023, 81p.

The HLAB, established by the UN Secretary-General, builds on the Sept 2021 Our Common Agenda report, but worries that “We face a collective breakdown.  We are failing to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.  We are hurtling from one emergency to the next, unable to address global shocks from new technologies, pandemics, rapidly changing economies and accelerating poverty and inequalities.”  We are putting the existence of future generations at risk.

Outlines 10 principles of effective multilateralism (people-centered, representative, transparent, equitable, networked, resources, mission-focused, flexible, accountable, and future-oriented) and six transformative shifts to help tackle today’s challenges:  1)rebuild trust through inclusion and accountability; 2) regain balance with nature and provide clean energy for all; 3) sustainable finance that delivers for all; 4) a just digital transition that protects against harms; 5) equitable and effective collective security; and 6) strengthened governance for emerging global risks.

RRR 5:7 Interim People’s Pact for the Future: 2023 Civil Society Perspectives on the Summit of the Future

Global Futures Forum, Coalition for the UN We Need, May 2023, 24p. 

An initial working draft as a result of broad-based consultations with >1600 civil society leaders, five regional consultations, eight thematic discussions with >2000 participants, a feminist framework, a youth research track with 11 research papers from 28 young researchers/activists, and an inaugural Global Futures Forum with >200 in-person participants and 2000 virtual registrants.   The Seven Thematic Areas: 1) Development and the SDGs:  articulate and act on alternatives to GNP, a Global Resilience Council; SDG coherence;  2) Environmental Governance: a decarbonization agenda, an Environmental Governance Agency, prioritize Transformative Education; 3) Human Rights and Participation: a full spectrum human rights mechanism; strengthen UN Human Rights Bodies; 4) Global Digital Compact: democratize the internet, close the digital divide; 5) Global Economic and Financial Architecture: a Biennial Summit for the World Economy; tax currency transfers and other transnational services, an International Anti-Corruption Court; 6) Peace and Security reform the Security Council, a UN Emergency Peace Service, nuclear abolition by 2045; 7) UN and Global Governance Innovation: a UN Parliamentary Assembly, a UN World Citizen’s Initiative.   The Five Overarching Objectives: 1) a longer-term future orientation based on human rights; 2) institution reform to meet urgent challenges, threats, and opportunities; 3) a whole-of-society approach including local, national, and regional engagement; 4) past UN and Member State commitments must be met; 5) building trust, commitment, and ownership among all.    [NOTE: A broad range of progressive proposals with focus on human rights and participation, welcoming “constructive feedback and dialogue.”  Human Security, however, is not mentioned.]

RRR 5:8.  Special Issue on Human Security

CADMUS, 5:1, March 2023, 157p. (World Academy of Art & Science). 
“The multidimensional crises confronting humanity today defy solution through existing policies…and ways of thinking.  We are called upon to conceive and realize a new paradigm in thought that leads to action.”   The  16 essays cover the global movement to promote Human Security (HS) for all, enhancing HS by transforming education, protection of humanity’s heritage, HS as practical and necessary, comprehensive HS and building a better future, health and economic burdens inflicted by HS destruction, HS and global understanding toward new world relations, basic sciences and HS, ensuring HS through conscious capital and technology, HS and individualism/collectivism, new forms of financial engineering to secure our global commons, report on COP 27 in Egypt and its implications for HS, and communicating HS.

      The introduction notes that the HS concept was first introduced in the UNDP’s 1994 Human Development Report, and later affirmed by the UN Trust Fund for HS in 1999 and an independent Commission on HS in 2001.  The essential elements of HS are set forth in the 17 SDGs adapted by the UN in 2015.  HS embraces all the SDGs under a single comprehensive umbrella, “but, in addition, it emphasizes the individual as well as the collective dimension of security.” p.i)  [NOTE: Properly promoted, HS is a good candidate for titling the “Agenda 2040” successor goals after the Agenda 2030 SDGs, which will not be realized in most or all nations.]

RRR 5:9  Freedom in the World 2023

Freedom House,  March 2023, 35p. 
The 50th edition of this detailed annual report concludes that “Global freedom declined for the 17th consecutive year… (but) the struggle for democracy may be approaching a turning point.”   While authoritarians remain extremely dangerous, they are not unbeatable.  The gap between 34 countries improving in political rights and civil liberties in 2022, and 35 countries with overall declines, was the narrowest in the past 17 years of deterioration.  Today, 84 of 195 countries are Free, in contrast to 44 of 148 countries in 1973.  [NOTE:  In contrast to this possible turning point, Freedom in the World 2022: The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule  (RRR 2:9) warned that “Global freedom faces a dire threat.”  In what is arguably the most important election of 2023, the recent re-election of Turkey’s Erdogan is not a step forward for democracy.]

RRR 5:10 The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review

Partha Dasgupta (Prof., Cambridge Univ), HM Treasure, Feb 2022, 610p (Short Version, 103p; Headline Messages, 8p).
Our most precious asset is Nature, but the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40% between 1992 and 2014, while human capital per person increased by about 13%.  We would require 1.6 Earths to maintain current world living standards.  Many ecosystems have been degraded beyond repair, or they are at imminent risk of tipping points.  “Biodiversity is declining at increasing rates.”  Total global cost of subsidies that damage nature is $4-6 trillion/year, and we lack institutional arrangements to protect global public goods.  “We need to change how we think, act, and measure success.”  Transformative change is needed by actors at all levels.  Establishing the natural world in education is essential. 
[NOTE:  This extensive and authoritative work, readily available in three online versions, parallels The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review by Nicholas Stern (Cambridge Univ Press, 2017).  It obviously is not a “recent” report, but it is more relevant and worthwhile than ever today.]

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