Since the 1970s, the international community of states has constructed a multilayered architecture to govern the planetary-scale impact of humans. This includes an array of international agreements, state policies, corporate programs, non-governmental initiatives, and community norms. Today’s problems would certainly be worse without this governance architecture. Yet ecological degradation is continuing to escalate, on a trajectory with the potential to destabilize the very foundations of the world order. Why? The answer rests in the failure of core governance solutions to recognize the scale of destruction since the Anthropocene began 500 years ago. Moreover, these solutions are uneven, incremental, and patchy, underestimating the costs of business as usual while also overestimating the value of private governance and new technology. Looking ahead to 2050, however, offers some prospects for more sustainable systems of global governance, with grassroots activism now intensifying, local successes spreading, and calls for sweeping reforms growing louder by the day.