Is that dire enough?
It’s a warning 11,000 scientists from 153 countries pose humanity faces unless it effects major societal transformations.
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. 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.”
In order to avoid the catastrophic fallout the climate emergency forebodes, scientists urge ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction, and slashing meat consumption.
Lead author, Oregon State University professor William Ripple, said the cycle of recent extreme weather motivated him to initiate the study aiming to establish a full range of climate breakdown cause and effects “vital signs,” not merely due to carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
The study’s scientists admonish:
“The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have largely failed to address this predicament. 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.”
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong. But it is not too late.”
To avoid crossing an irreparable tipping point, scientists suggest humanity take the following actions:
- Use energy more efficiently and institute robust carbon taxes to slash fossil fuel use;
- Stabilize the global population, ballooning by 200,000 people per day, through ethical approaches such as better education for girls;
- Cease nature’s destruction, restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2;
- Adopt plant-based diets and reduce food waste;
- Shift economic goals away from gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Scientists aver this “transformative change, with social and economic justice for all promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual.”
This comes at a time the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has reached its highest level in a decade.
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report stating the world has 12 years to halt coal consumption and slash carbon dioxide emissions to prevent the atmosphere from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
Even a half-degree increase puts us on track to experience more hurricanes like Michael, coastline inundation, floods, wildfires, drought, food shortages, mass human and animal migrations, and ecocide.
International borders, economies, food and water supplies, health, education, transportation, energy sources, are all predicted to change with the climate as the planet warms faster than scientists predicted.
Another casualty on the list: democracy.
In what is being labeled “climate apartheid,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, warns climate change’s impacts are likely to undermine democracy and the rule of law in addition to basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions.
Ecocide is already underway and putting society at extreme risk, according to a recent 1,800-page United Nations (UN) global assessment Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) report more than 450 scientists and diplomats took over three years to compile from 15,000 academic studies and reports.
According to Michael Mann, esteemed Pennsylvania State University professor and director of the Earth Science Systems Science Center, the IPCC’s assessment is actually conservative, underestimating the amount of warming that has already occurred.
We actually have less carbon left to burn if we wish to avoid the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold the IPCC report cites.
We have already passed too many tipping points to avoid some of the climate’s most devastating effects, and many scientists theorize the world has begun a sixth mass extinction.
Yet there is still hope as long as we heed the experts’ advice.
The question is, will we?
Or will we continue doubling down on a smash-and-grab strategy to extract every drop of fossil fuels the planet can yield for pure profit?
Image credit: wondergressive.com