Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Surviving Climate Chaos: The need for good leadership

Julian Caldecott

Surviving Climate Chaos is being published into a new world of lethal fires, floods and record-breaking temperatures, while the IPCC warns us that we are in the last decade before Arctic, oceanic and equatorial tipping points take all choices out of human hands. This emergency calls for far greater focus and impact in our climate change response, and for the strengthening of communities and ecosystems everywhere against climate chaos. It also calls for greater clarity in how we think about the social and ecological systems in which we live, the stresses that they experience, and how we and they adapt to new and dangerous circumstances.

“A particular risk arises where important environmental and social signals cannot be appreciated without a great deal of knowledge and attention to detail, so they are recognised only by a small minority. This applies often in large, complex or fragmented societies in which there are many distractions, and especially where slowly deteriorating environmental conditions are involved, or where there are slowly growing social threats such as inequality, corruption and polarisation. Here, if the danger is severe and solutions are needed urgently but there is little public appreciation of the need for action, an essential quality of leadership is a willingness to act decisively to safeguard the group but in advance of public opinion. An accountable leader must then explain what happened in the emergency and why, and be willing to accept responsibility for all the consequences.

“A good leader must at least be competent, attentive, intelligent, articulate and flexible, but all candidates for leadership are likely to claim all these attributes, so the choice will be up to the electorate. The latter might be expected to be on the look out for stupidity, cupidity, criminality, extremism, narcissism or a tendency to lie, since these often-concealed attributes can endanger everyone. With climate change, it would also make sense for voters to prefer leaders who understand ecology, at least to the extent that they can be trusted to grasp the basic ideas of where food, water and environmental security come from, and what climate change might mean for these necessities. Such knowledge can easily be tested at interview or by questioning during campaigns, but ecology is still seen as a minority interest rather than something that every citizen and journalist should know about. It is not feasible for leaders who are competent on climate change to be chosen consistently while this lack of interest in ecology persists. This is why the universal early teaching and learning of ecology is necessary to adaptation leadership, and therefore to adaptation itself.” (pages 81-82).

Surviving Climate Chaos by Julian Caldecott
Surviving Climate Chaos by Julian Caldecott

Title: Surviving Climate Chaos by Strengthening Communities and Ecosystems

Author: Julian Caldecott

Paperback ISBN: 9781108793780

Hardback ISBN: 9781108840125

About The Author

Julian Caldecott

Julian Caldecott is Director of Creatura Ltd, an environmental consultancy, and has a background in wildlife research and conservation in tropical rainforests. Since 2000 he has le...

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