The confluence of war in Europe, a worsening hunger crisis, an ongoing pandemic, skyrocketing inequality, and unabated global warming has pushed the world to a "boiling point" that is threatening billions of lives and livelihoods worldwide.
That urgent warning was issued Wednesday by the research director of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which along with the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) published a detailed new report charting humanity's difficult—but, with sufficient political will, attainable—path away from present emergencies and toward a just and livable future.
"Looking at the scientific evidence, we live amid entwined crises—planetary and human," the report reads. "The evidence shows just how much our human wellbeing relies on the planetary systems that we are changing. The natural systems that support life on Earth have been breached, and the human systems remain plagued by inequalities."
Unveiled ahead of the U.N. General Assembly's Stockholm+50 meeting next month, the report argues that "we do not have a gap in policies and aspirations, rather in actions."
"Since 1972, only around one-tenth of the hundreds of global environment and sustainable development targets agreed by countries have been achieved or seen significant progress; it is not enough," states the new report. "The knowledge and the means of solving our problems are known and available; implementation is missing."
Declaring that "policy decisions made today will impact global climate and ecosystems for the next 10,000 years," SEI and CEEW call on world leaders to:
- "Recognize Indigenous local knowledge and the Rights of Nature" and "the human right to clean, safe, and sustainable environment";
- Reduce their nations' carbon footprints, a message directed specifically at the wealthy countries most responsible for planet-warming emissions;
- Move beyond Gross Domestic Product as "the primary metric and adopt indicators that help measure progress towards the vision of sustainable development"; and
- Redirect public financing away from fossil fuel development and toward "alternate technologies or business models, eventually moving the global economy and society to a sustainable path."
"With humans having altered 75% of the planet's land surface, impacted 66% of the ocean area, and directly or indirectly destroyed 85% of wetlands," the report states, "science points to the need to redefine the relationship between humans and nature, ensure prosperity that lasts for all, and invest more actively and purposefully in a better future."
Nina Weitz, a researcher at SEI, said in a statement Wednesday that despite mounting evidence showing the climate emergency and its global impacts are intensifying, "the ample opportunities for policymakers to take action and the growing momentum for change gives me hope."
"We see how public opinion reflects the urgency and willingness to change lifestyles, how youth worldwide demand and exercise more agency to fight climate change, environmental degradation, and inequity, and that technological development and uptake is occurring faster than anticipated," said Weitz.