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The World Is Running Out of Time

For decades, most of the major economies have relied on a form of capitalism that delivered considerable benefits. But systems do not work in isolation. Eventually, reality asserts itself: global trade tensions reemerge, populist nationalists win power, and natural disasters grow in frequency and intensity.

WASHINGTON, DC – In 2015, the international community launched a renewed effort to tackle collective global challenges under the auspices of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). But after an initial flurry of interest, the progress that has been made toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and tackling climate change has tapered off. Around the world, many seem to have developed an allergy to increasingly stark warnings from the UN and other bodies about accelerating species extinctions, ecosystem collapse, and global warming.

Now is not the time to debate whether progress toward global goals is a matter of the glass being half-full or half-empty. Soon, there will no longer even be a glass to worry about. Despite global news coverage of civic and political action to address our mounting crises, the underlying trends are extremely frightening. In recent months, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has marshaled overwhelming evidence to show that the effects of global warming in excess of 1.5oC above preindustrial levels will be devastating for billions of people around the world.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services serves as yet another wake-up call. Human activities, the report concludes, have put an unprecedented one million species at risk of extinction. The oceans that supply food and livelihoods to more than four billion people are under threat. If we do not take immediate action to reverse these trends, the challenges of playing catch-up later will probably be insurmountable.

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