coastal erosion Bruce Siceloff/ZumaPress

The Changing Climate on Climate Change

There is no guarantee that world leaders will forge a binding and effective climate-change agreement at the UN conference in Paris in December. But there is reason to believe that they are finally acknowledging the magnitude of the problem – as well as their responsibilities to people beyond their immediate electoral constituencies.

OSLO – In the early 1990s, when I was Prime Minister of Norway, I once found myself debating sustainable development with an opposition leader who insisted that I tell him the government’s single most important priority in that field. Frustrated, I replied that what he was asking was impossible to answer. I concluded our exchange by explaining why: “Because everything is connected to everything.”

Fortunately, such thinking is now more widely held than it was back then, thanks partly to the human development approach, which emphasizes the complexity of nature and recognizes that one-dimensional solutions cannot address multidimensional problems like those we currently face. Indeed, today’s challenges are seldom simply environmental, social, or economic, and their solutions do not lie within the area of competence of a single government ministry. Without broad, multidisciplinary impact analysis, such narrow thinking can lead to new problems.

This is particularly true of climate change. Fortunately, a growing realization that rising global temperatures are not simply an environmental concern provides reason to hope that world leaders are finally ready to address the problem in an effective way.

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