Sustainability is About More than Just Stabilizing the Climate
The clue to receive funding in science? Climate change.
The buzzword for conservation non-profits? Climate change.
The “sustainability” emphasis in the private sector? Climate change.
The new “charismatic megafuana”? Climate change.
Climate change is the overriding theme of current conservation and development work, and it dominates science and conservation media attention. While climate change and associated warming is one of the greatest challenges facing the planet, it is not the only challenge. If we continue to put all or most of our attention on combating climate change, will nature remain capable of supplying necessary ecosystem services ensuring human livelihoods as it does now?
Consumption patterns, water scarcity, starvation, food security, biodiversity loss, and increased spread of disease pose innumerable threats to human well-being. Climate change will increase the severity of these concerns, but stabilizing our climate won’t alleviate them. We must further our understanding of the relationships between nature and people - expand our knowledge of ecosystem services and how they relate to diseases and food security - and we need to curb our ever increasing consumption problems. Understanding and reducing the effects of climate change should be part of broader sustainability projects that address natural resources and human well-being concerns. Funding, media, and human capital must expand beyond a single sustainability component – mitigating global climate change won’t feed the growing human population, won’t alleviate poverty, and won’t make people eat lower on the food chain. If so much focus is on stabilizing climate, what will we have left to live on once it’s stabilized?