“Let’s not drop the ball on this one.”
Sustainable development scientist Thomas Cernev has warned of the escalating risk of global societal collapse in a contributing paper to the 2022 Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Disaster Risk Reduction,
In his paper on global catastrophic risk (GCR) and planetary boundaries, Cernev presented a scenario analysis that considers four scenarios in relation to GCR (high and low) and planetary boundaries (crossed and uncrossed). These scenarios are Stable Earth, Earth Under Uncertainty, Earth Under Threat, and Global Collapse.
In all these scenarios except Stable Earth, the “achievement of global targets and accompanying frameworks is negatively impacted,” while under Earth Under Uncertainty and Earth Under Threat, the trend is toward Global Collapse, unless radical changes are made.
Alarmingly, multiple planetary boundaries are close to being breached, writes Cernev, and should they fail, economic and political breakdowns will follow. In this case, “total societal collapse is a possibility,” he writes.
‘Planetary boundaries’ are natural systems, and a framework created by the Stockholm Resilience Center in 2009, according to Byline Times’ Nafeez Ahmed, presents nine key ecosystems that if “pushed past a certain threshold, will dramatically reduce the ‘safe operating space’ for human habitation.”
Ahmed adds that the UN report “notes that four of the nine planetary boundaries now seem to be operating outside the safe operating space” – land system change and climate change are “in a zone of uncertainty with increasing risk” of going beyond the safe operating space, while biochemical flows and ‘novel entities’ (“new engineered chemicals, materials, or organisms and natural elements mobilized by human activity such as heavy metals”) have “far exceeded” that space.
However, two other planetary boundaries – ocean acidification and freshwater use – would also probably be exceeded, said Professor Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Center last year. That’s six out of nine planetary boundaries in immediate danger, and at this rate, adds Ahmed, “it is possible that we cross almost all of them before 2030.”
Ahmed adds that “escalating synergies between disasters, economic vulnerabilities, and ecosystem failures are escalating the risk of a ‘global collapse’ scenario,” and adds that this “urgent warning” seems to have remained unreported until now.
Cernev recommends that “both preventive and reactive policy be developed, with preventive prioritized due to the lower resource cost.” He adds that factors related to GCR be incorporated into global targets, particularly in the next version of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Meanwhile, the 2022 GAR, released by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UN DRR), asks how “governance systems can evolve to better address the systemic risks of the future.”
It emphasized the interconnection of global systems, and we saw this proven when Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine led to a sharp increase in petroleum prices – in the Philippines, the price per liter of gas doubled – and in the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan that became a pandemic, the effects of which we are still dealing with two years later.
This global interconnectedness, according to the 2022 GAR, also means global vulnerability. A local risk like coronavirus became global. Global risks like climate change are creating major impacts everywhere around the world.
What does all this mean for the Philippines, that is already feeling the ill effects of climate change and many other global risk factors? It is imperative that the new administration put into place policies that are in line with these latest scientific findings and do its part toward fulfilling global goals that will mitigate the risks and help reverse the trend. The year 2030 is only eight years away.
Moreover, the Philippines is not doing well enough in its environmental efforts. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2020, the Philippines ranks 111th out of 180 in overall environmental health, with an EPI score of 38.4 (0=worst, 100=best). In the Asia-Pacific region, its regional rank is 9 overall, 14th in air quality, 16th in terms of carbon dioxide growth rate, and 22nd in terms of its biodiversity habitat index.
We call on the next president to put qualified experts on these matters in charge of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Climate Change Commission, and other relevant government agencies. It is disappointing already that he has put a broadcaster in charge of the welfare department instead of, let’s say, the Philippine Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) or some other government media agency, and a formerly suspended lawyer/blogger as head of the PCOO instead of an actual journalist or communication expert.
Global societal collapse is no longer the stuff of science fiction, but an actual impending doom hanging over our heads. Let’s not drop the ball on this one – the ecological fate of our country and the world as we know it is in our hands.
*** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO