How will social work respond to the impacts of climate disruption?

Increasingly, even the “optimists” among climate change realists are concluding that massive disruptions to both the natural and social worlds are a certainty.  Even if rapid and effective government action somehow manages to avert the very worst effects (whatever those might be, but we can’t rule out runaway climate feedback loops spelling the extinction of most life forms, including homo sapiens), we can look forward to a rough ride.

It won’t be a short ride, either.  Scientific consensus holds that major impacts (sea level rise, shifting disease vectors, extreme weather events, stressed local ecosystems, etc.) are locked in by irreversible climate dynamics already underway, and will play out over centuries, if not millennia.  Add to that stark picture the harsh reality that governments are not in fact moving to take effective action, despite the promises of most to do so; indeed, global warming agents are presently being released into the atmosphere at an accelerating rate.

Leave aside for now the vexing question of why governments are not acting more decisively to address a clear existential threat to human civilization, if not to planetary life itself.  Just assume that physical, psychological, and social strains of all types will continue to worsen, most likely amplifying one another, and will not lend themselves to easy fixes.

How will the profession of social work respond?  How will we act as social stability evaporates in the heat of mounting crises, and human suffering escalates across a broad range?  When “advocacy” directed to public officials on behalf of an exploding number of needy people proves even less effective than it is today?  What will we do then?

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