World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency
“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat,” notes this article. “On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
This article – ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency’ – was published in the journal Bioscience on November 5, 2019, by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Virginia. Its authors are William J. Ripple (Professor of Ecology, Oregon State University), Christopher Wolf (Professor, Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics Department, Michigan State University), Thomas M. Newsome (from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney), Phoebe Barnard (researcher, policy analyst and Chief Science and Policy Officer at the Conservation Biology Institute, Oregon) and William R. Moomaw (Professor Emeritus of International Environmental Policy, Tufts University, Massachusetts), and 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries.
The article states that despite several warnings by scientists, greenhouse gas emissions continue to be on the rise, with increasingly damaging effects on Earth’s climate. The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption – the most affluent countries have mainly been responsible for this, and they typically account for the greatest per capita emissions. The authors suggest six “critical and interrelated steps (in no particular order) that governments, businesses, and the rest of humanity can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change.”
The article states: “We believe that the prospects will be greatest if decision-makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”
Human activities that significantly contribute to the climate crisis include increasing populations of human beings and ‘ruminant livestock’ (species such as cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats, which are generally directly dependent on the environment in which they live for fodder and feed resources), per capita meat production, global tree cover loss, fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
The article notes that solar and wind energy consumption has increased by 373 per cent per decade. But, as of 2018, it was still 28 times lesser than the consumption of fossil fuels.
Ice has been rapidly disappearing from the Earth’s surface, states the article, and this is “evidenced by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness worldwide.”
The authors suggest that fossil fuels must be replaced with low-carbon renewable energy and other such cleaner sources, and that “Wealthier countries need to support poorer nations in transitioning away from fossil fuels.”
Emissions of ‘short-lived climate pollutants’ (these persist in the atmosphere for a short time but can be extremely potent in contributing to global warming) such as methane, black carbon or soot, and hydrofluorocarbons, must be reduced. Doing this could potentially reduce warming by more than 50 per cent over the next few decades.
The Earth’s ecosystems must be protected and restored – phytoplankton, coral reefs, forests, savannas, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, soils, mangroves and sea grasses all play a significant role in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The authors recommend that people must eat mostly plant-based foods and reduce the global consumption of animal products, especially ruminant livestock. This will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be curtailed. The authors state: “Our goals need to shift from GDP [gross domestic product] growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality.”
The world population – which is increasing at the rate of roughly 80 million people every year, or more than 200,000 persons a day – must be stabilised and gradually reduced. This, they note, should be done “within a framework that ensures social integrity.”
Focus and Factoids by Pratik Dixit
William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R. Moomaw, and 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries
Oxford University Press, on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Virginia
05 Nov, 2019