Writing

10 things you can do to change everything and combat the climate crisis

A recent report painted a terrifying picture of our coming future: within decades, for every 1°C increase in the global temperature, a billion people will be forced to live in unbearable heat. Without change, we are on track for catastrophic global temperature increases of 3.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. This crisis isContinue reading “10 things you can do to change everything and combat the climate crisis”

President Biden’s leadership on climate must be supported and applauded by health professionals

Today is Earth Day and Joe Biden, the US President, has invited leaders of 40 countries to come together for a two day zoom conference to discuss the climate emergency. Seventeen of the countries invited are responsible for 80% of carbon emissions in the world. Biden is expected to announce his commitment to halve the carbonContinue reading “President Biden’s leadership on climate must be supported and applauded by health professionals”

The age of consequences: the future for which left environmentalism is unprepared

Left environmentalism struggles in the face of a disturbing truth: the global environmental emergency is going to get much worse no matter what happens, as scientists’ warnings about the future increasingly become the destabilising reality of the present. It is still technically possible to avoid a 1.5C temperature rise above the pre-industrial average, the goalContinue reading “The age of consequences: the future for which left environmentalism is unprepared”

We failed to prepare for pandemics, we cannot do the same with climate change

In late February, the UN Security Council held a meeting to discuss how the climate crisis is a threat to international security.  As David Attenborough told the meeting, “we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature and ocean food chains…[and] much of the rest ofContinue reading “We failed to prepare for pandemics, we cannot do the same with climate change”

Notes from a 1.2C world

I was born at the end of the eighties, this side of Hansen’s testimony to the US Congress and before the first Scientists’ Warning and Earth Summit in 1992. Much of the subsequent mainstream narrative on the environmental crisis seems to have been akin to warning fellow crewmates on a ship of a far-off storm.Continue reading “Notes from a 1.2C world”

On climate change, the younger generations must shout even louder

What a difference a crisis makes. It wasn’t all that long ago a Tory prime minister wanted to “get rid of all the green crap”. This week, however, Boris Johnson committed to power all homes in the UK with wind by 2030, investing £160m as part of a wider drive to “build back greener” by making Britain a worldContinue reading “On climate change, the younger generations must shout even louder”

Politics in a time of consequences

Fighting the environmental emergency is about power and politics, not just clean technologies and regulation. This presents a problem for political systems. When considering the record of our democracy in handling problems that arrest all parts of society, such as Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the prospects look poor for responding to the environmental emergencyContinue reading “Politics in a time of consequences”

Notes from a 1.2°C world

The coronavirus pandemic is a warning from the future. It has brought the fragility of our increasingly interconnected economic and social systems into stark relief. A health crisis became an economic crisis, a social crisis, a political crisis. The word ‘resilience’ now peppers the policy PDFs of governments, NGOs and multilateral institutions. Let us hopeContinue reading “Notes from a 1.2°C world”

Our leaders weren’t prepared for coronavirus. If they make the same mistake again, the environmental crisis will destroy society

The coronavirus pandemic has brutally reminded us of some home truths about risk. Catastrophic things can happen – and they can occur very quickly – overwhelming societies, particularly if they’re not well prepared. It is in this way that the Covid-19 crisis gives us a window into the future – a future in which societiesContinue reading “Our leaders weren’t prepared for coronavirus. If they make the same mistake again, the environmental crisis will destroy society”

A sustainable economy act

We live in the age of environmental breakdown. Destruction of the natural world has reached a critical phase. Crucially, this isn’t isolated to climate breakdown. Vast swathes of land are being lost to soil depletion, over-fertilisation is polluting rivers and oceans, and animal populations are collapsing as the sixth mass extinction tears across the world.Continue reading “A sustainable economy act”

Without a Future Generations Act, we will pass a toxic inheritance to our kids

We’re all aware of the fact that millennials and younger generations can no longer expect to be ‘better off’ than their parents. But the situation is far worse.  As a result of the environmental crisis, these generations can expect to live in a world in which nature is critically impaired, threatening the stability of societies. Continue reading “Without a Future Generations Act, we will pass a toxic inheritance to our kids”

The G7 was a joke. Three degrees warming isn’t

The spirit of international cooperation is an advanced state of decay — and last week’s G7 Summit offered the latest illustration. President Trump — preening, bullish — dismissed the environmental crisis as a ‘dream,’ and dismissed any notion of joint action on climate in the process. The remaining ‘advanced economies’ of the G7 offered to send $20Continue reading “The G7 was a joke. Three degrees warming isn’t”

Why land is the next frontier in environmental breakdown

There’s no better place to look for certainty of environmental breakdown than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s warnings of climate catastrophe have become a kind of gospel for the end times, presenting the latest evidence as a guide to everything that has gone wrong with anthropogenic climate breakdown. Their most recent report about climateContinue reading “Why land is the next frontier in environmental breakdown”

Our biggest political crisis isn’t Boris Johnson: it’s a warming planet

There was a time when it seemed more likely that hell would freeze over than Boris Johnson would become prime minister. But as the furore over his new government transfixes Westminster, a far greater political crisis rages on. The planet is warming – so much so that London is forecast to reach 39C today. Further north,Continue reading “Our biggest political crisis isn’t Boris Johnson: it’s a warming planet”

Could working less save the planet?

There’s a growing consensus that many of the problems fuelling climate change should be tackled simultaneously, improving people’s lives while rapidly reducing environmental impact. Yet increasing wellbeing often leads to more environmental destruction; more food, for example, results in the unsustainable use of soil, while access to high quality healthcare means deploying more diesel ambulances. AContinue reading “Could working less save the planet?”

Britain has a historic responsibility to tackle climate change – and time is running out

We have just over ten years to have a shooting chance at avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown. The scientific community has been unequivocal about this. Harmful greenhouse gas emissions – from vehicles, through power plants, to cows – must be nearly halved by 2030 to stop temperatures from rising by 1.5C since the 19th century, when industrial capitalism hitContinue reading “Britain has a historic responsibility to tackle climate change – and time is running out”

Theresa May must act on climate breakdown – or step aside for those who will

Greta Thunberg is one of the only public figures who is being honest about environmental breakdown. Her speech in the UK Parliament contained a litany of truths that are almost entirely absent from the political debate. The scientific community has unequivocally warned that we have to roughly halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to have a shooting chanceContinue reading “Theresa May must act on climate breakdown – or step aside for those who will”

Extinction Rebellion should be celebrated, not sneered at

Extinction Rebellion is meeting its first objective: to gain attention. Since its launch late last year, thousands of people have been arrested around the world as Extinction Rebellion groups have emerged in country after country, deploying direct action tactics to raise the profile of environmental breakdown. In this way, much of what Extinction Rebellion is doingContinue reading “Extinction Rebellion should be celebrated, not sneered at”

The Long Revolution

The domination of UK political debate by Brexit has entered its fourth year. In the media, all policy areas are filtered through its lens. In Whitehall, it consumes governmental capacity; on the streets, protests from both sides grow in number – large and small, peaceful and more violent. Battles have raged over the terms ofContinue reading “The Long Revolution”

A Green New Deal could signal a fundamental shift away from neoliberalism

The idea of a Green New Deal has captured imaginations across the world. For many, it provides an overall narrative neatly stressing the urgency of the major crises of our time. What’s more, in seeking to combat injustice while stemming environmental breakdown, it recognises the interrelation between these problems.  It has been astonishing and energisingContinue reading “A Green New Deal could signal a fundamental shift away from neoliberalism”

It’s no longer climate change we’re living through. It’s environmental breakdown

In 1962, American playwright James Baldwin wrote that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Today, his words should give us succour. We need more than ever to face the reality of environmental change. I’m a researcher at IPPR, a think tank. We have beenContinue reading “It’s no longer climate change we’re living through. It’s environmental breakdown”

A world of digital plenty is possible, but only if we take on the data barons

What links Donald Trump, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Corbyn? Answer: over the last couple of months, they’ve all sought to capture the political energy from the seemingly endless sequence of tech giant scandals. Trump has tweeted about a supposed (unfounded) anti-right-wing bias in Google searches. In the UK, Javid has warned of tech firms’ record on child safety,Continue reading “A world of digital plenty is possible, but only if we take on the data barons”

Today we’ve consumed more resources than the planet can renew in a year

Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the date when we have taken more from nature than it can renew in an entire year. Unsustainable extraction is occurring on a planetary scale: we are using natural resources 1.7 times faster in 2018 than the Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate this year. Critically, this year is the earliest dateContinue reading “Today we’ve consumed more resources than the planet can renew in a year”

Fining Facebook isn’t enough – we need total media reform

Facebook is being fined £500,000 by the Information Commissioner, the maximum amount possible, for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The fine is unlikely to change Facebook’s behaviour. The company is worth an estimated $540 billion, and in the first quarter of 2018 took £500,000 in revenue every five and a half minutes. SomeContinue reading “Fining Facebook isn’t enough – we need total media reform”

Fines are fine, but only structural reform can rein in the platform monopolies

Facebook is being fined £500,000 by the Information Commissioner, the maximum amount possible, for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The fine is unlikely to change Facebook’s behaviour. The company is worth an estimated $540 billion, and in the first quarter of 2018 took £500,000 in revenue every five and a half minutes. Some claim theContinue reading “Fines are fine, but only structural reform can rein in the platform monopolies”

Britain Unmoored: In Search of a Progressive Foreign Policy

Since the second world war and end of empire, British foreign policy has been moored to two powerful partners. Our ‘special relationship’ with the US has dominated our defence policy, through the cold war into an era of liberal interventionism. Our relationship with Europe, most recently through the European Union, has provided the basis forContinue reading “Britain Unmoored: In Search of a Progressive Foreign Policy”

Time for politicians to get real about the Anthropocene

We are currently living through an era of global environmental collapse. Resources are being consumed at around 1.5 times the Earth’s ability to regenerate them. The continued reliance on carbon to power our economies means that we are highly unlikely to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, increasing the chance of severe climateContinue reading “Time for politicians to get real about the Anthropocene”

The Lancet Countdown UK case study

Studies on the benefits of tackling climate change abound. In The Lancet Planetary Health, the study by Martin L Williams and colleagues1 has the great merit of using large datasets to illuminate the possible health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, the necessity to reduce emissions is enshrined in law through the 2008 ClimateContinue reading “The Lancet Countdown UK case study”

Lies, damn lies, and GDP

Before headline statistics were developed, governments had little idea of what was going on in the economy. In the 1930s, American presidents Hoover and Roosevelt grasped at a range of statistics in an attempt to understand the functioning of the economy, from the number and value of freight train loadings to stock price indices.  AsContinue reading “Lies, damn lies, and GDP”

The Road to Ruin: Making Sense of the Anthropocene (editorial)

Ours is the age of global environmental collapse. Resources are being consumed at around 1.5 times the Earth’s ability to regenerate them. We are living through the sixth mass extinction and nearly two-thirds of all vertebral life has died since 1970. The stubborn entrenchment of carbon into our economies means that we are highly unlikelyContinue reading “The Road to Ruin: Making Sense of the Anthropocene (editorial)”

British leadership in the Anthropocene: an interview with Margaret Beckett

Britain has often led the world in understanding and responding to global environmental change. IPPR Progressive Review’s Laurie Laybourn-Langton talks to former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett about what made Britain a leader and if it remains one today.  Laurie Laybourn-Langton:   Margaret Beckett, you are a former Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for the DepartmentContinue reading “British leadership in the Anthropocene: an interview with Margaret Beckett”

A gloomy economic outlook reflects the failures of the last two chancellors

The most important story in this year’s Budget is the downward revision of both productivity and GDP growth. In March, the Office of Budget Responsibility expected growth in productivity per hour to come in at 1.6% in 2017 and by at least 1.5% in the years thereafter. Now, they do not expect productivity to have increasedContinue reading “A gloomy economic outlook reflects the failures of the last two chancellors”

The movement to replace neoliberalism is on the ascendency – where should it go next?

Ten years after the crash, the movement to replace neoliberalism is in the ascendency. Well organised campaigns cover everything from the promotion of pluralism in economic curricula to the application of new economic principles in local communities. Academics and campaigners, who prior to the crash were lone voices in the wind, have been joined by a growing chorusContinue reading “The movement to replace neoliberalism is on the ascendency – where should it go next?”

The Budget Did Not Address The Deep Economic Challenges The UK Faces

The Chancellor said today that the future is bright and that he is building a Britain fit for the future. But that’s not what it looks like to many people, including economists. The uncertainties of Brexit – which have already cut growth and raised inflation – are just the tip of the iceberg. As the IPPRContinue reading “The Budget Did Not Address The Deep Economic Challenges The UK Faces”

How to deliver a national mission to decarbonise the British economy

The arguments for mission-oriented industrial strategy in general, and the focus on a zero carbon mission in particular, have been well made. Historical examples – the moon landings provide the usual case – prove that it matters who is driving innovation and for what purpose. Public policy can steer the path of socioeconomic development toward solutionsContinue reading “How to deliver a national mission to decarbonise the British economy”

London should embrace digital technology to clean up its dirty air

The mayor of London’s plan to introduce the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) by April 2019 is a very important step in reducing London’s lethal and illegal air pollution. This air pollution is attributable to over 9,400 early deaths per year; the negative health effects it causes fall particularly hard on children and low income communities. The greatest sourceContinue reading “London should embrace digital technology to clean up its dirty air”

Davos’s time is up

In times of disjuncture and hardship, an impulse exists to take flight from reality and retreat into the comfort of old-worn habits and familiar surroundings. To some, this offers the opportunity to reflect and reimagine. Many may simply desire to escape, or remain entirely ignorant to the problems at hand. For others, to be seenContinue reading “Davos’s time is up”

Imagination and will in the Anthropocene

How can we face up to the enormity of environmental collapse? How can we collectively build a politics for the Anthropocene? Laurie Laybourn-Langton interviews activist and former climate diplomat John Ashton. Laurie Laybourn-Langton (LL-L): You’ve been at the forefront of combatting climate change through your role at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and by foundingContinue reading “Imagination and will in the Anthropocene”

Welcome to the Anthropocene

All states, markets, welfare systems, major religions, their justifying ideas and the people that fought to create them came about in a uniquely stable epoch geologists call the Holocene. This era was typified by a climate suited to human flourishing, and is now over. In its place comes the Anthropocene, the name for a timeContinue reading “Welcome to the Anthropocene”

The next Mayor should channel the Victorians to make London the greenest capital in the world

London has always overcome the great natural and man-made challenges it has faced. In the Victorian era, industrialisation and empire supercharged London’s economy, leading its population to more than triple as people sought a more prosperous life. With them came a raft of problems, from sewage to disease, that eroded the quality of life forContinue reading “The next Mayor should channel the Victorians to make London the greenest capital in the world”


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