Our presuppositions about the next 80 years
Founded in 2020, the primary mission of the Solidarity Policy Center is to write detailed analysis. We focus on what the climate scientists call "pathways": different fuzzy scenarios of how things play out over the next 80 years. As the International Panel on Climate Change puts it:
The temporal evolution of natural and/or human systems towards a future state. Pathway concepts range from sets of quantitative and qualitative scenarios or narratives of potential futures to solution-oriented decision-making processes to achieve desirable societal goals. Pathway approaches typically focus on biophysical, techno-economic, and/or socio-behavioural trajectories and involve various dynamics, goals and actors across different scales.
We focus on two pathways. The first is a "middle of the road" scenario - the current world and economic system continues more or less as it is now, with adjustments.
Middle of the Road (Medium challenges to mitigation and adaptation): The world follows a path in which social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns. Development and income growth proceeds unevenly, with some countries making relatively good progress while others fall short of expectations. Global and national institutions work toward but make slow progress in achieving sustainable development goals. Environmental systems experience degradation, although there are some improvements and overall the intensity of resource and energy use declines. Global population growth is moderate and levels off in the second half of the century. Income inequality persists or improves only slowly and challenges to reducing vulnerability to societal and environmental changes remain.
The second pathway is dire. Continuing to use the IPCC "Shared Socio-economic Pathways", we see this as a "High Challenges to both mitigation and adaptation" scenario, a combination between SSP3 and SSP4 - global warming reaching above 3C by 2100, several other ecological tipping points crossed, along with deteriorating institutions, heavy migration, heavy civil unrest, and other unpleasantness. Its worth reading the official descriptions of each:
Regional Rivalry – A Rocky Road (High challenges to mitigation and adaptation): A resurgent nationalism, concerns about competitiveness and security, and regional conflicts push countries to increasingly focus on domestic or, at most, regional issues. Policies shift over time to become increasingly oriented toward national and regional security issues. Countries focus on achieving energy and food security goals within their own regions at the expense of broader-based development. Investments in education and technological development decline. Economic development is slow, consumption is material-intensive, and inequalities persist or worsen over time. Population growth is low in industrialized and high in developing countries. A low international priority for addressing environmental concerns leads to strong environmental degradation in some regions.
Inequality – A Road Divided (Low challenges to mitigation, high challenges to adaptation): Highly unequal investments in human capital, combined with increasing disparities in economic opportunity and political power, lead to increasing inequalities and stratification both across and within countries. Over time, a gap widens between an internationally-connected society that contributes to knowledge- and capital-intensive sectors of the global economy, and a fragmented collection of lower-income, poorly educated societies that work in a labor intensive, low-tech economy. Social cohesion degrades and conflict and unrest become increasingly common. Technology development is high in the high-tech economy and sectors. The globally connected energy sector diversifies, with investments in both carbon-intensive fuels like coal and unconventional oil, but also low-carbon energy sources. Environmental policies focus on local issues around middle and high income areas.
For the first pathway, our analysis tends to support:
- Broadly social democratic policies
- The value of committed religious believers and traditional religion to society
- Deep dissatisfaction with neoliberalism
- A sympathy for degrowth economics
- An affinity for the Congress for the New Urbanism
For the second pathway, our analysis tries to come up with answers to "What comes next?" that promote human flourishing and the common good. Some of the topic clusters in this area include:
- How do we mitigate international conflict in these scenarios?
- What will sovereignty and governance look like in a future of deteriorating nation-states? (A concept we call The Supersedure State)
- What can we do right now to become more resilient at every level of society?
- How can we ensure that concepts like the rule of law, presumption of innocence, and relatively widespread political participation continue in a climate scenario we can best describe as a flaming dumpster fire?
It won't take you much time on this site to see that we're a bit weird. Here's what we actually do:
- Write policy papers where we think we can offer differentiating value
- Curate and report on literature reviews of existing policy proposals where there is nothing new to add
A Different Approach
- We give members access to embedded debates using a unique online platform for visualizing structured argument
- We integrate Spaced Repetition Prompts into much of our writing
- We lean heavily on Systems Thinking to analyze issues
We'll be writing more on our quirkier features in the coming weeks, in the vein of this post on systems thinking and the issue maps.