6.7.5 Environmental Challenges from a Political Viewpoint

There are several environmental challenges – resource shortages, pollution, climate change, and disease – which require political action to be taken.  These challenges range in subsidiarity from local issues, where a company might contaminate the neighbourhood water supply for example, through to national, continental and global issues.

The economic aspects of these challenges have already been mentioned (3.5.7), but political agreement is needed to put the necessary arrangements in place.  The public is often aware of the need to clean up the local environment and to protect the planet, seeing these as moral issues (4.3.5.3), so they are prepared to support politicians who need to introduce new regulations and invest some taxpayer money – in research, for example.  As described later, though, politicians need to ensure that care is taken of people whose employment is affected by these changes (6.7.8).

The following sub-sections examine different kinds of political challenge:

  • Resource shortages are becoming more common, because of climate change and population increases (6.7.5.1). Water shortages are already creating political problems and competition is increasing for some minerals.
  • Politicians must sometimes introduce new regulations to control pollution and degradation of the environment (6.7.5.2). Short-term economic pressures conflict with the need for long-term sustainability.
  • Responses to environmental challenges are politically controversial (6.7.5.3). Sustainability is a consideration that requires regulation of economic growth, and national pressures can conflict with global needs.
  • Countries agreed to the Paris Accord as a framework for setting targets and monitoring progress to limit the human impact on climate change and damage to the environment (6.7.5.4), although progress has been patchy.
  • Controlling the spread of disease can become a political issue, requiring some restrictions on people’s liberty (6.7.5.5). The coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21 vividly illustrated how rapidly disease can spread.

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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/675a.htm