Earth could enter ‘doom loop’ stage of climate crisis, report warns

Researchers Warn of a ‘Doom Loop’ in the Earth’s Climate Crisis

The devastating effects of climate change have been widely documented and the situation is getting worse every day. The recent IPCC report has made it clear that global warming is happening faster than previously predicted, and the world is on track to surpass the 1.5°C target by the end of this century. The report warns of more frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events that will lead to more human displacement, food and water shortages, and other crises that could undermine the capacity of nations to address the root causes of climate change.

This dire scenario has been dubbed the “doom loop” by researchers who warn that it could have a self-reinforcing effect that exacerbates the climate crisis. The “doom loop” describes a situation in which governments become so overwhelmed by the impacts of climate change that they neglect to invest in the efforts needed to reduce global emissions. This dynamic creates a spiral effect, where the symptoms of climate and ecological crises distract us from the root causes of the problem, leading to a feedback loop that could run out of control.

The doom loop is outlined in a report jointly published by two British think tanks, which draws attention to the potential situation where the symptoms of the climate crisis, such as extreme weather events, food crises, and displacement, start to distract us from the root causes. The report’s author, Laurie Laybourn, an associate fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, warns that we could get to a point where societies are faced with relentless disasters and crises that distract them from delivering decarbonization.

While the report’s authors do not believe that a global “doom loop” is irreversible, they warn that in some places, the dynamic could begin to take hold. One example of the doom loop is economic, as African nations spend increasing sums on mitigating escalating climate change crises; they have less money to invest in reducing long-term emissions targets. According to the African Development Bank, the impact of climate change is already costing the entire continent between 5 and 15 percent of its annual GDP growth, per capita.

The report highlights that the costs of climate change far surpass government estimates, and that the economic toll of deadly heat waves, crop-killing droughts, and rising seas linked to climate change quickly add up, depleting governments of the economic resources they need to tackle climate change’s root causes. As a result, it becomes more difficult for countries to raise the necessary funds to meet their climate action pledges, making it challenging to achieve the required incremental change.

Moreover, the doom loop could have far-reaching consequences beyond the economic realm, as climate change could force more and more refugees to flee increasingly uninhabitable homelands, triggering political backlashes in wealthier host nations. This could further distract voters from the root cause of climate change, exacerbating the crisis.

However, the researchers believe that it is still possible for humanity to extricate itself from the doom loop, because societies ultimately have control over how they respond to destabilizing crises. The psychological element of this is fundamental, as people must be willing to relearn everyday habits and take positive action to combat the crisis. Throughout history, moments of destabilization have created both a “doom dynamic” and a “virtuous circle” of positive social movements. Thus, it is possible for society to make the necessary changes to combat the climate crisis and avoid the doom loop.