Why progress on climate change has been so poor: Summary

Climate change has been known about for decades, and there have been international agreements to reduce CO2 emissions for decades, but global emissions have continued to rise, and in high emission countries, the fall has been too slow.
The climate emergency has now become desperate for many people.
We need to consider what decisions should have been taken, what the process should have been, and what has gone wrong.
The evidence is that
  • Use of fossil fuels could have been phased out by (a) avoiding increased use and (b) the development of low energ and sustainable energy alternatives.
  • The decisions made have not been in line with the scientific consensus.
  • Decision making has been systematically poor.
  • All sections of society are failing.
  • It is a system failure in decision making rather than a failure of individuals.
  • Lack of knowledge, cognitive biases, flawed reasoning, denial, adversarial discussion, fallacies and malpractice dominate opinions and decision making.
The conclusion is that the decision making process needs to be improved.

The response to climate change has been very poor

Decision making has not followed the science

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.

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.

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.

Lack of knowledge, cognitive biases, flawed reasoning, denial, 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.

Decision making needs to be improved

Methods have been developed in science to overcome personal biases in order to reach correct answers - see document 40.

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

First published: 28 Dec 2021
Last updated: 10 Sep 2023