Franz Baumann “The systemic challenge of global heating” International Politics Reviews, 2018; October 1st 2018, pp. 1-11.

This article is available as an open access article from International Politics Reviews.

Global heating is happening. The opportunity to prevent it has been missed. Originating in the Industrial Revolution, the ever greater use of fossil fuels impacts the entire world – especially future generations, who contribute nothing to the problem and who have no say today. The near-universal consensus is that the accumulation in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases heats the Earth’s climate, that an increase above 2 °C imperils the basis of human life, and that one beyond 3 °C threatens its destruction. Global heating is the flipside of the phenomenal economic and demographic development of the past half century. Ever more people are enjoying, or pursuing, ever more comfortable and mobile lifestyles, the cumulative effect is to push the Earth beyond its carrying capacity. Recognizing these dangers, the 2015 Paris Agreement was a major achievement – but not good enough, because chances are slim that it will be realized and, even if it were, it would not suffice. Global heating is beyond individual or national remedial action. Organizing decarbonization at the proper scale and speed is the formidable global public policy challenge on which the survival of the human species depends. Can governments deliver? And what, if they can’t? 

About the Author
Franz Baumann spent most of his professional life as a United Nations official. His last assignment was Special Adviser on Environment and Peace Operations with the rank of Assistant Secretary-General. He left the Secretariat at the end of 2015 and joined New York University in 2017 as a Visiting Research Professor. He is a Senior Fellow and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He started his career at the European Parliament in Luxembourg in 1976 before transferring to the European Commission in Brussels and eventually joining Siemens in Munich. In 1980, he joined UNDP and, during more than three decades, served in four cities on three continents in a dozen or so functions. In 2009, he was appointed as Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management at Headquarters in New York. His doctorate in Political Science (African Studies) was obtained from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Feature image photo credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider