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“Sleepwalking” Towards a Global Polycrisis? – GRI Summit 2023

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In this session, former Bank of Canada Deputy Governor William White offered insights on why climate change is proving to be such a challenging problem. He described a world where interconnected systems are the norm, explaining that a problem in one system – such as the environment – can be exacerbated by deficiencies in others, including political, geopolitical, economic and financial systems.

Drawing an analogy, White compared the intricacies of climate change to a COVID patient with comorbidities. The climate problem is complicated by several factors: an inability to pinpoint what exactly needs to be done to solve the problem; distractions caused by other pressing priorities including inflation and energy insecurity; and an unwillingness among governments to take steps that may cause short-term economic pain.

The session expanded on White’s recent paper entitled “Mitigating Global Warming is Not Our Only Problem: Are We “Sleepwalking” Towards a Global Polycrisis?”, in which he argued that the climate crisis, the rise of populism, and geopolitical tensions could compound into a “polycrisis”. In discussion with Janet Ecker, White stressed the difficulty in solving international problems with a diversity of interests at play, and opined that the market alone won’t solve climate change.


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