More than 11,000 scientists around the world have declared a climate emergency, warning of “untold suffering” without urgent action.
Scientists from the University of Sydney, Australia, Oregon State University and Tufts University in the US, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa are joined in the warning by 11,000 signatories from 153 countries, including the UK. The declaration is based on analysis of more than 40 years of publicly available data covering a range of measures from energy use to deforestation and carbon emissions
In a paper published in the journal Bioscience, the researchers set out indicators showing human impacts on the planet’s climate. They describe “profoundly troubling” signs from activities including carbon emissions and fossil-fuel consumption, the amount of meat consumed per person, global tree cover loss, the number of air passengers carried, and sustained increases in human populations.
Urgent action needed
The scientists warn that, despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, governments have largely failed to address the problem of global warming. And now, they say, “the climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected”. They also set out six areas where governments, businesses and the rest of humanity can take action to lessen the worst effects of climate breakdown. These are:
- Replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and other cleaner sources of energy, alongside implementing massive energy-saving practices;
- Eating mostly plant-based foods and reducing animal-based products, which will improve human health, cut emissions such as methane, and free up land to restore habitats;
- Curtailing over-exploitation of resources driven by economic growth, with a shift from targeting GDP to sustaining ecosystems and improving wellbeing by prioritising basic needs and reducing inequality;
- Cutting food waste;
- Prompt action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
- Protecting and restoring natural systems, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, mangroves, and seagrasses which store carbon;
- Protecting soil carbon through agricultural practices;
- Ensuring the world population is more sustainable via policies like making family-planning services available to all people and making primary and secondary education a global norm for all, especially girls and young women.
Scientists’ “moral obligation” to speak out
Dr Thomas Newsome at the University of Sydney said:
Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat.
From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency.
Newsome said that measuring global surface temperatures as a marker of climate breakdown will remain important, but 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.
They could be used for policymakers, businesses, and the public to track progress over time.
While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.
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