CHATHAM HOUSE: Beyond ‘hopeium’ and ‘doomism’

Accelerating the transition in an increasingly chaotic world


London Climate Action Weeek: Exploring how to navigate the transition to more sustainable, equitable and resilient societies through the threats and opportunities thrown up by the deepening environmental crisis.


Discussions of the environmental crisis are sometimes framed in binary terms. We have ‘eight years to save the world’; it’s ‘one minute to midnight on the [climate crisis] doomsday clock’. This partly reflects strategic communications priorities; the need to highlight both the threat of the crisis and the urgency of the action required.


Yet the chances of limiting global heating below 1.5°C are diminishing and environmental impacts are growing. In turn, it can be difficult to face the challenging emotions elicited by the heightening stakes. One reaction is a dogmatic optimism that sees technological change or other ‘silver bullets’ overcoming these complexities: ‘hopeium’ in the words of climate justice writer Mary Annaïse Heglar. In direct contrast is a fatalism that sees no plausible route to avoid worst-case scenarios, sometimes described as ‘doomism’.


Breaching the 1.5°C target does not mean that the world cannot be ‘saved’ or that it will ‘end’. It will mean vastly more suffering and injustice. As the UN Secretary General has said, ‘every fraction of a degree matters’. But how do we navigate through the worsening impacts of the environmental crisis and the heightening stakes without slipping into extreme reactions?


As planetary boundaries are further exceeded, a far less stable world could result as societies struggle under worsening environmental shocks and their cascading consequences. These conditions could present significant threats to the transition itself, potentially fragmenting focus on mitigation or presenting overwhelming demands on adaptation. They could also present large opportunities, creating a greater impetus for rapid change.


This event considers three main questions:

• How can we talk about this difficult reality without slipping into extreme reactions or encouraging continued delay?

• What strategies can ensure a faster, better transition as the chaotic consequences of the historical failure to mitigate and adapt grow?

• How can emerging generations be supported on their journey to senior leadership in a future facing these conditions?


This event is part of the Cohort 2040 project, which explores the challenge facing emerging leaders from the deepening environmental crisis and how they can be better supported over their journey to senior leadership to drive a faster, better transition in a more chaotic world.


Watch the whole Video on Youtube! (Min. 25 for the Climate Overshoot Commission)