A new study released today, based on 40 years of data, reveals a planet in crisis, with over 11000 scientists worldwide issuing a dire warning of the need for drastic climate action.
The group’s statement says:
Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” 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.
The study was released the same day as new satellite data revealing October 2019 is the warmest October on record – however the scientists say simply measuring the planet’s surface temperatures does not reveal the dangers the planet faces as the world heats up. Instead, they revealed a range of data which they describe as a “suite of graphical vital signs of climate change over the past 40 years”.
The group are also unequivocal as to what they believe the causes are, citing “excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle” including sustained increases in both human and ruminant livestock populations, per capita meat production, world gross domestic product, global tree cover loss, fossil fuel consumption, the number of air passengers carried, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and per capita CO2 emissions since 2000, which they describe as ‘profoundly troubling’ and warn of a ‘climate emergency’ which could lead to ‘untold suffering’.
Lead Author Dr. Newsome said the problem was well documented:
“We have rising emissions, rising temperatures, and we’ve known this for 40 years and we haven’t acted – you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know we have a problem.”
“An emergency means that if we do not act or respond to the impacts of climate change by reducing our carbon emissions, reducing our livestock production, reducing our land clearing and fossil fuel consumption, the impacts will likely be more severe than we’ve experienced to date.”
The good news is that the scientists say there is still hope, but the measures call for ‘bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies’, namely:
Energy: Implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices and replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and other cleaner sources of energy if safe for people and the environment – authors said fossil fuels must ‘stay in the ground’. They also called on wealthier countries to support poorer nations in transitioning away from fossil fuels
Short-lived pollutants: Scientists called for a prompt reduction in the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, black carbon (soot), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which scientists say could slow climate feedback loops and potentially reduce the short-term warming trend by more than 50% over the next few decades while saving millions of lives and increasing crop yields due to reduced air pollution.
Nature: Scientists called on leaders to protect and restore Earth’s ecosystems. Phytoplankton, coral reefs, forests, savannas, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, soils, mangroves, and sea grasses contribute greatly to sequestration of atmospheric CO2. Scientists also called for an immediate end to deforestationto quickly curtail habitat and biodiversity loss, protecting the remaining primary and intact forests, especially those with high carbon stores and other forests with the capacity to rapidly sequester carbon (proforestation), and called for reforestation where appropriate at ‘enormous scales’.
Food: Authors called for a change of diet, claiming that a plant based diet would both ‘improve human health and significantly lower GHG emissions’. They say this would also free up croplands for growing much-needed human plant food instead of livestock feed, while releasing some grazing land to support natural climate solutions
Economy: Scientists called for more equality and a shift from EDP growth, saying:
“We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere and policies that guide economic decisions accordingly. Our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality. “
Population: Finally, the scientists called for action to stabilise the global population which is currently growing by around 200,000 a day.
The group conclude:
“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual. 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.”