The politics of uncertainty

Jason J. Blackstock

Governance is a word on everyone’s lips these days, and for good reason. Global governance is certainly not getting any easier, with destructive financial ripples, inscrutable oil prices, surging food costs, and unsettling national uprisings. These familiar concerns remind us that even long-established governance systems, with rich historic experience to draw from, are increasingly caught unprepared by the rapidly changing social, political and technological realities of our new century.

Now against this backdrop, try to design a new international regime that can head off dangerous human interference with the climate system without exacerbating the multitude of other looming calamities which are barely being managed already. With virtually no historic experience to draw upon, forecasts about how climate policies would actually impact those tender bits of our global society – such as jobs, energy supplies and food production – appear at best uncertain. And that’s before contesting predictions from differing political camps are washed into the mix. In this context, the continuing lack of a global climate deal, while no less disastrous for our planet’s future, is sadly somewhat understandable.

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