More than 11,000 scientists in 153 countries have declared a climate emergency. They have issued a grim warning that unless major changes are made to the way that we live the world’s people will face untold suffering due to the climate crisis. Scientists say that there is no time to lose:
Their report published in Bioscience; a peer-reviewed scientific journal says:
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. This entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems. The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
The group says that as scientists, they have a “moral obligation to tell it like it is” andto “clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat.”
The report is based on climate science that was first established in 1979 at the first World Climate Conference held in Geneva. Numerous global bodies have agreed that urgent action is required for decades but greenhouses gases have continued to rise.
William Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University, author of the report says:
“Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we have continued to conduct business as usual and have failed to address this crisis,”
Phoebe Barnard, one of the lead authors of the report and the chief science and policy officer at the Conservation Biology Institute, a non-profit science group, told CNN the report makes it clear “there’s no more wiggle room” for policymakers.
This is not the first time that thousands of academics have got together to urge people to act on climate change. Back in 2017 more than 16,000 scientists published a letter warning that “human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.”
Scientists have specified a number of urgent changes that need to be made, including ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and cutting meat eating. Professor William Ripple said that the increase in extreme weather he was seeing led him to initiate the report. The main aim of the warning was to detail a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown rather than only considering carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events.”
The group selected other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” such as booming air travel and world GDP growth. They believe that the climate crisis is “closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle.”
Human activities such as these have led to especially alarming trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Professor Ripple says:
“Global surface temperature, ocean heat content, extreme weather and its costs, sea level, ocean acidity and land area are all rising. Ice is rapidly disappearing as shown by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness. All of these rapid changes highlight the urgent need for action.”
“Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”
“We urge widespread use of the vital signs to allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress.”
On the positive side birth rates are declining and there is a rise in renewable energy use though most indicators suggest humans are rapidly heading in the wrong direction.
Professor Ripple says:
“While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.”
Scientists say they want the public to “understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change”.
In order to achieve this, major changes in the ways that our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems need to be made.
There are 6 key objectives that the report focuses on: replacing fossil fuels; cutting pollutants like methane and soot; restoring and protecting ecosystems; eating less meat; converting the economy to one that is carbon-free and stabilising population growth.
Despite the gloomy vision of the future the authors of the report say that there is room for optimism.
The report says:
“We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities, and businesses are responding. Such swift action is our best hope to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”
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