For 30 years, diplomats and policymakers have called for decisive action on climate change—and for 30 years, the climate crisis has grown worse. There are a multitude of reasons for this failure. The benefits of climate action lie mostly in the future, they are diffuse and hard to pin down, and they will accrue above all to poor populations that do not have much of a voice in politics, whether in those countries that emit most of the world’s warming pollution or at the global level. The costs of climate action, on the other hand, are evident here and now, and they fall on well-organized interest groups with real political power. In a multipolar world without a responsible hegemon, any collective effort is difficult to organize. And the profound uncertainty about what lies ahead makes it hard to move decisively.

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Recommended citation:

Azevedo, I., Davidson, M. R., Jenkins, J. D., Karplus, V. J., & Victor, D. G. (2020). The Paths to Net Zero: How Technology Can Save the Planet. Foreign Affairs, May/June.