Political & economic short-termism driving civilisation to destruction

March 29th, 2013 by University West

Climate scientists have shown through their research that the ongoing rise in global temperature will cause the sea level to rise, which will drown coastal communities, and cause severe weather, which will kill many people.

So why don’t politicians act on these findings?

Social scientist Stellan Vinthagen shows that today’s power relations prohibit change.

The world is heading towards a catastrophic global average temperature increase of 4°Celsius.

The consequences are a rising sea level, droughts, floods and lethal heat waves.

Stellan Vinthagen, Associate Professor of Sociology at University West in Sweden, states that it is the prevailing power structures that make politicians paralyzed. And he sees social scientists as a key group for this to change.

Stellan Vinthagen, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Peace and Development at Goteborg University and University West in Sweden (click image to expand - image courtesy of University West in Sweden)

Stellan Vinthagen, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Peace and Development at Goteborg University and University West in Sweden (click image to expand – image courtesy of University West in Sweden)

In a scientific article ‘Ten theses on why we need a social science panel on climate change‘ he analyzes the short-sightedness inherent in today’s political and economic systems.

There are no incentives to plan ten to fifty years ahead.

The world has no common political control. It is divided into about 200 nations, half of which have some form of democracy.

“But politicians are mostly elected for short terms of three to four years. We also have an economy where short-term profits are crucial,” Stellan Vinthagen said.

Politicians must act so as to satisfy voters or they will not be re-elected and voters are impatient.

Companies need to generate short-term profits. Otherwise they cannot exist.

“We have an economy that drives us into a self-destructive situation that will destroy the foundation of the civilization we know,” Stellan Vinthagen said.

He argues that social scientists must start a work to transform our political and economic systems.

“We need a work equivalent to what we have seen of the scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)”

“Social scientists need to come together and think about what kind of society we should create that is not self-destructive, regardless of political opinion.”

“We must find an economy that works without destroying itself,” he said.

The social science panel he envisions need to cooperate with transnational climate movements.

Stellan Vinthagen’s research focuses on social movements and activism, and how these change society.

“If you look historically, fundamental changes never have occurred in any other way than through popular mobilization,” he said.

But so far, the international climate movement is weak. There is not enough pressure from below on the politicians.

“I’m not overly optimistic,” Stellan Vinthagen concluded.

 

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