Research & Studies

Daniel Brooks: The New Sustainability: Progress, not Nostalgia – Lecture at iASK

Fourth Lecture of the iASK Series: “The Future of Europe in Global Context” by Daniel Brooks (University of Toronto)

Global climate change is literally beyond belief. It does not favor any political, economic, social, religious or ethnic group.

If it represents an existentially threat to humanity, and we cannot reverse, stop, or outgrow its looming impact. As a result, sustainability arguments based on concepts of “growth” – positive, negative, net-zero – must be superseded by ones based on survival. Everything we have been doing that we thought was going to stop or reverse climate change has had the effect of buying us time. And in the past half century we have bought a lot of time. By not recognizing that we were only buying time, however, we have wasted most of that opportunity. Now the danger is great, the time is short, and we are largely unprepared. We must document each threat and it interactions with the others, assess its potential impact on us, monitor it for changes, and act by anticipating what is coming and taking active steps to mitigate it. If we continue business as usual, 2050 will be the LD50 for humanity. For many threats, we have substantial documentation and assessment, in some cases even good monitoring. In no case have we acted in a way that will increase our chances of survival. Of the major threats to humanity associated with climate change, the one for which we are least prepared is emerging disease. This is because, until recently, health professionals have not considered emerging disease to be a matter of climate change. And yet, diseases cost the world $1 trillion each year, an amount greater than the GDP of all but 15 countries, and the costs are borne disproportionately by those countries that can least afford them. This must change rapidly.