A report—titled This Is a Crisis: Facing Up to the Age of Environmental Breakdown(pdf)—from the U.K.-based progressive think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), declares that "mainstream political and policy debates have failed to recognize that human impacts on the environment have reached a critical stage, potentially eroding the conditions upon which socioeconomic stability is possible."
"Human-induced environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace and the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes in societies around the world is rapidly closing," the report advises. "These outcomes include economic instability, large-scale involuntary migration, conflict, famine and the potential collapse of social, and economic systems. The historical disregard of environmental considerations in most areas of policy has been a catastrophic mistake."
The report raises alarm not only about the risks of climate change driven by human activities that produce greenhouse gases, but also about behaviors tied to declining biodiversity, ocean acidification, land degradation, high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen runoff, a waning ozone layer, and air and land pollution. Considering all these factors, it concludes, "we have entered the age of environmental breakdown."
Lead author Laurie Laybourn-Langton emphasized to the Guardian, even considering a response that matches the scope of the crisis requires first raising public awareness: "People are not frank enough about this. If it is discussed at all, it is the sort of thing mentioned at the end of a conversation, that makes everyone look at the floor, but we don't have time for that now... It's appearing more in media, but we are not doing enough."
IPPR researcher and report co-author Lesley Rankin highlighted the importance of reaching the public with "a more honest message" that fully captures the gravity of the current global conditions. While noting that campaigners often fear that "doom-mongering" will turn people off and spur inaction, she charges that "a catastrophic prognosis and a call to action may feel incompatible (why try to resolve something that is already so disastrous?), but to do so reflects the conflicting emotions which environmental breakdown inspires—despair, followed by grim determination."