The climate emergency: Why has progress been so poor?

This is an assessment of what has gone wrong and has led to the climate emergency, and what needs to be done.

1. The climate emergency has become desperate
2. Decision making has been systematically poor
3. All sections of society are failing
4. It is a system failure in decision making rather than a failure of individuals
5. Lack of knowledge, cognitive biases, flawed reasoning, adversarial discussion, fallacies and malpractice dominate opinions and decision making
6. Decision making needs to be improved

1. How bad is the situation? The climate emergency has become desperate

See document 73.

2. Decision making has been systematically poor

Why is the climate situation so bad?
It is because, collectively, humanity has made extremely poor climate decisions
It has been known for decades that mankind must reduce fossil fuel use, but
This is despite the commitments that have been made by countries
These commitments are necessary commitments given the seriousness of the climate situation. The problem is not that governments have tried to reduce emissions and not succeeded - they have not even made a serious attempt.
See document 36.

3. All sections of society are failing

There has been poor decision making due to the incompetence and malpractice of people in positions of power (in national and local government, and elsewhere), but no groups are blameless, e.g.

All groups are failing. It is hard to say who is most culpable because the failures are so interlinked.
See document 37.

4. It is a system failure in decision making rather than a failure of individuals

The failures are not a small number of isolated failures but interlinked systematic failures in the way decisions are made.

For example, there is little consensus between campaigning groups, or attempt at consensus concerning actions needed, resulting in inconsistencies, mutual contradictions, and lack of effectiveness.

The failures are similar to the failures in other areas, e.g. covid-19, air quality, overpopulation, and food security.
See document 38.

5. Lack of knowledge, cognitive biases, flawed reasoning, adversarial discussion and fallacies dominate opinions and decision making

Why is decision making so poor? It is because of the way that key policy decisions are made.
These flaws in decision making can lead to fallacies arising and being repeated, often inadvertently.

The failures can be exacerbated by
leading to failures to reach a consensus and wrong decisions.
See document 39.

6. Decision making needs to be improved

Methods have been developed in science to overcome personal biases in order to reach correct answers, including

The methods used in science have created the problems that we now face e.g. in enabling mankind to exploit the earth's resources on a vast scale, and they now need to be used to solve the problems. This needs to be done throughout society.

There is a need for a critical mass of campaigners to start this process, to start the ball rolling, and invite others to join the enterprise - and to work with campaigners in areas other than climate change where there are the same problems in decision making.

Some progress in telling the truth has so far been made by
See document 40.

Status of this document

This is a personal assessment by Ian Campbell. There are no competing interests.


First published: 28 Dec 2021
Last updated: 10 Apr 2022