What Next for Sustainable Development?
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What Next for Sustainable Development?

Our Common Future at Thirty

Edited by James Meadowcroft, David Banister, Erling Holden, Oluf Langhelle, Kristin Linnerud and Geoffrey Gilpin

This book examines the international experience with sustainable development since the concept was brought to world-wide attention in Our Common Future, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds engage with three critical themes: negotiating environmental limits; equity, environment and development; and transitions and transformations. In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, they ask what lies ahead for sustainable development.
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Chapter 4: The global sustainability challenges in the future: the energy use, materials supply, pollution, climate change and inequality nexus

Harald Ulrik Sverdrup


The world is rushing into the largest challenge ever. In the next five decades, the world will have major issues to deal with from climate change, global pollution, inequality, inadequate energy supply, and problematic materials supply, all at once. Already, the world of today faces change in ways once thought impossible. The challenges ahead are global and of huge magnitude. The effects are globally pervasive, and will reach every aspect of life on the whole globe. There will be no truly sheltered spot. This concerns us all, regardless of personal position taken, active, passive or ignorant. Continuing with business-as-usual will lead to a crowded, grey, dim and dirty, unequal world, with shrinking liberty and joy. Truly transformative changes in society are now urgently required. The author suggests a number of radical and transformative policy changes that should be evaluated and implemented. Real political change will be required, including changes to existing power structures and mechanisms. Large-scale changes to human habits are needed to address increasing population size, environmental impacts and unlimited resource use.

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