of global governance will not experience substantial reform by 2020, nor will
we witness an international, unanimous agreement for targeted action to combat
climate change and promote environmental sustainability with binding
legislation. The state, private sphere
and civil society, representing the traditional three sectors of governance,
will do little but maintain the status quo of delayed action and unproductive
rhetoric towards environmental health while the earth slowly loses the ability
to provide its most fundamental ecological service: the sustenance of
The United Nations will continue to provide an inconsistently effective forum for multilateral discussion and debate, albeit with a different constituency as developing countries strengthen and gain dominance within the international community; China, India and Brazil are such examples. With economic systems largely intact and increasingly interrelated, the private sector will continue to exploit comparative advantages, encourage unregulated trade and report record earnings. At the state level, nations will uphold their sovereign right to extricate themselves from any international agreement relating to environmental stewardship with minor consequences, if any. And finally, civil society organizations will continue to increase in numbers and pursue their individual visions of environmental conservation, marked by many successes, many failures, and little coordination. Overall, little will change in the structure of global governance.
However, the planet will change. Scientists predict that the ancient glaciers of Kilimanjaro will melt by 2020. Brazil's Amazonia has the potential to lose 42% of its tropical rainforest by 2020. The Maldives will be noticeably submerged and displaced peoples will become increasingly marginalized and disadvantaged. Urban pollution over developing megacities will intensify as Kyoto Protocol negotiations continue to dawdle. The construction of more wind turbines, development of more cost-effective and efficient photovoltaics and growth of higher-yielding biofuel crops will ease the ecological burden and offer some sense of hope for a salvageable earth. But the predicted ecological deterioration will come true, and scientists should unabashedly say, "I told you so." So marks the rise of science in global governance.
As 2020 approaches, the international community will witness the bittersweet validation of years of scientific research and rigor, which fell by the way side as economic growth and political convenience ruled the global roost and effectively ignored the prolific body of evidence pointing to the need for decisive action and change. Trust in government will falter and the scientist will join the international discussion on an equal, if not elevated, platform. The reason for this will be unanimous; everyone will feel the effects of global environmental degradation and climate change. As a result, politicians should increasingly rely on research, data and scientific discourse to design legislation with environmental integrity at its core. Scientists from government, industry, non-governmental organizations, academia and civil society should collectively create the fourth sector of global governance, the Science Sector, and ensure that local, regional and international decision-making incorporates the voice of the scientific method and protects the earth from further damage.
This fourth sector will not exclude the poor in favor of the wealthy, privilege the industrialized over the developing, or appeal to the secular but not the religious. On the contrary, science can adapt to this planet's diversity, which has rendered the current framework of global governance largely ineffective in the twenty-first century. Of greater significance is the ability for individuals and communities, through the extension of science by means of education, to participate in the global discourse of governance relating to environmental sustainability. Scientific pursuits, initiated by the community itself, will broaden understanding of the local natural environment, increase capacity to alleviate stress and engender success in securing ecological integrity.
The restructuring of the international governance paradigm to welcome the pre-eminent role of the scientist from Northern, Southern, urban and rural communities will require universal education. Development funds must make long-term commitments to school construction, teacher training and community access their first priority with Southern recipients. Information technologies to enhance communication and to facilitate data sharing, both locally and globally, must be installed and maintained. Science, adapted to each culture, must form the curriculum's foundation. An educated planet is a confident planet. And the confident scientist will ensure the planet's sustainable future.
Noah Chutz is an MA candidate at American University studying Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Development
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Marek Kubista: Copenhagen Summit: The Key to Success Is to Include the BRICS
- Jens F. Laurson & George A. Pieler: Europe Has to Get Serious About Energy
- Memo 13: A New Climate Regime: Top-Down Change