Evolving Governance Across a Stressed Planet
7. A defining issue of our time In the previous chapter we examined the long history of the complex two-way interaction between humans, their evolving cultural endowments and practices, and the atmosphere. In this chapter we explore how this dynamic unfolded with particular reference to the evolution of governance in the post-Kyoto Treaty context. Specifically, we focus on the implications for the Modern conception of governance, the extent to which human societies may have embarked upon an adaptive transition, and the modalities of such a transition. Even though the Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005, influential voices could still be heard contesting or downplaying the evidence for global warming and consequent climate change. It was as if key elements of world society remained in active denial. Nevertheless, the steady flow of scientific assessments eventually focused public discourse. The likely social, economic and political ramifications at all levels (from the local to the global) were so wide-ranging and profound, and the need for a comprehensive response so urgent that UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in 2007, referred to it as ‘a defining issue of our time’.1 A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE The Kyoto Protocol, though its defined targets constituted at best a partial and provisional response, would at least map the boundaries of the global political terrain upon which subsequent responses could be built. It represented an important symbolic moment in the evolution of public discourse and policy. Countries that had ratified the Protocol were now widely thought to occupy the...
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