Earth’s Existential Threats: Inequality, Pandemics and Climate Change Demand Global Leadership

Jacob Ainscough, Alex McLaughlin, Luke Kemp and Natalie Jones wrote an article for The Convsersation about existential threats and the need for global leadership.

"Asked in 2003, the UK’s astronomer royal, Martin Rees, gave our present society 50/50 odds of lasting until the end of the century. It’s fair to say the odds haven’t improved in the years since he made this call. The planet is warming, a pandemic runs wild, the threat of nuclear war still hangs overhead and emerging technologies are allowing for the development of new weapons of mass destruction. Existential threats to human existence are growing – and the time left to address them gets ever shorter.

So the new presidential term in the world’s most powerful nation takes on a special significance. The Biden-Harris administration cannot tackle the global challenges we face alone, but the US will be pivotal to efforts to wind back the doomsday clock. Joe Biden made his agenda clear in a short passage of his inaugural speech:

  • "A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country … A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us … A cry for survival comes from the planet itself … The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront, and we will defeat."

After the Trump years, these new political commitments from the world’s dominant power are welcome. Yet this rhetoric reveals a flaw in Biden’s conception of the threats facing the world. Each issue is treated as a distinct challenge. But our research on catastrophic risks reveals that such threats are actually deeply interconnected. Threats facing humanity are a many-headed Hydra – they are all parts of the same beast."

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