Environment

11,000 scientists declare climate emergency, outline a plan of action

11,000 scientists declare clim...
“From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency. While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.” - Dr. Thomas Newsome
“From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency. While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.” - Dr. Thomas Newsome
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“From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency. While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.” - Dr. Thomas Newsome
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“From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency. While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.” - Dr. Thomas Newsome

With so many dire climate warnings pouring in, it’s understandable to feel like it’s too late to do anything about it, but a new report by an international team of scientists has a more optimistic tone. Although the report declares a climate emergency and has been signed by thousands of scientists, it also outlines six steps that politicians, businesses and individuals can take to mitigate the worst effects of climate change – provided we act sooner rather than later.

Authored by scientists from the University of Sydney, Oregon State University, the University of Cape Town and Tufts University, the report analyzes over 40 years of data. Along with shifts in surface temperatures, which are a fairly standard measurement for these kinds of reports, the new study also examines other changing factors like carbon emissions, polar ice mass, land clearing, deforestation, energy use, human population growth, fertility rates, and gross domestic product (GDP).

Based on this analysis the team has declared a climate emergency. And it’s not just the authors themselves – over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have signed their names to the declaration, calling themselves the Alliance of World Scientists.

“Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat,” says Dr. Thomas Newsome, an author of the study. “From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency. While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency.”

The report goes on to outline six critical areas that need to be addressed in order to stave off the worst case scenario of climate change: energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy and population.

Energy


Unsurprisingly, the main point of the energy plan is to switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources as quickly as possible. That means leaving remaining stocks right there in the ground, no matter how tempting they may be. This can be complemented by actively removing more carbon from the atmosphere – through both new technologies and by restoring natural carbon sinks like forests.

The systems that support fossil fuels will also need to be carefully dismantled. That means government subsidies of fossil fuels will need to be eliminated, carbon prices need to be raised to discourage their use, and wealthier countries need to help less-wealthy ones through what may be a difficult transition.

Short-lived pollutants


Carbon dioxide isn’t the only dangerous greenhouse gas – others, like methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) don’t stick around as long but can do even more damage. By reducing emissions of these short-lived pollutants the team predicts that we could cut the short-term warming trend by as much as 50 percent. At the same time, crop yields should increase with the better air quality.

Nature


Protecting nature seems like another no-brainer, but it is something we humans as a species are largely failing to do – in fact, it appears Earth is heading towards a sixth major extinction event, and it’s all our fault. Natural ecosystems like phytoplankton, coral reefs, forests, savannas, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, soils, mangroves, and sea grasses are all under threat. Preserving and restoring these would not only benefit the organisms who call them home, but help us naturally sequester more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

In particular, existing forests need to be preserved, while reforestation and new forest plantations need to be undertaken at huge scales. The team estimates that these steps alone could help account for up to a third of the emissions reductions set out in the Paris Agreement.

Food


The Western-style diet is environmentally damaging. It’s well known that growing animals like cows for food is a major source of methane emissions. Reducing the global consumption of meat and other animal products is key to cutting those short-lived pollutants, as well as freeing up more land for reforestation or other natural uses. Emerging technologies like lab-grown meats and better plant-based alternatives could help societies with a taste for meat make the adjustment. And of course, food waste needs to be drastically curbed.

Economy


Perhaps one of the least obvious points on this list, economic factors can be a huge drain on the environment. Currently economies rely heavily on fossil fuels, which is largely behind the reluctance to move away from these damaging technologies.

The team says that economic goals as a whole will need to be shifted, away from relentless GDP growth and the pursuit of wealth, towards prioritizing basic human needs and reducing inequality.

Population


And finally, the human population needs to be stabilized. The population on Earth grows by over 200,000 people per day or 80 million per year, and the UN estimates that it will peak at 10.9 billion people by the end of the century. This is unsustainable.

The study says that there are policies that have been shown to be effective in reducing birth rates, such as providing easy and global access to family planning services, and improving education access – particularly to girls and women.

According to a large recent study, average birth rates globally have dropped by half since 1950 – down to less than two births per woman. But the population continues to grow, due to momentum gained in previous decades and a declining death rate thanks to better health care.

Conclusion


All up, the study echoes sentiments like those in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which urged that rapid and unprecedented changes will need to be made to all facets of society to limit the worst effects of climate change.

The report has attracted praise from other scientists who aren’t signatories and who aren’t involved with the study.

“The fact that over 11,000 scientists have been a signatory to this warning must surely be seen by all as an indication of the seriousness of this problem,” says Caroline Sullivan, Professor of Environmental Economics and Policy at Southern Cross University. “This is not just some kind of anti-oil propaganda, or a message from greenie tree huggers – these are thousands of scientists from across the world from the whole range of disciplines relevant to this issue.

“The comprehensive analysis provided in this paper leaves no room for doubt, as the evidence is all there. In the face of this, what we need to ask ourselves is, ‘what kind of future do we want?’, and ‘how do we get there?’ If that is our choice, then surely we must take heed of this warning, to act on how we generate and use energy, how we feed ourselves, and how we manage our social and economic trajectory into the future."

The study was published in the journal Bioscience. Co-author of the paper, Dr Thomas Newsome from the University of Sydney, discusses the work in the video below.

World scientists declare climate emergency

Sources: University of Sydney, Scimex

30 comments
Matty E.
I have been keenly interested in ecology and the climate for decades, and my engineering degree included basic chemistry, calculus, and physics, etc. I don't believe what these people say at all. They have lied so often, they have corrupted their data repeatedly, and their only solution is more tyrannical government, more exorbitant taxes, less freedom, less liberty, less choices. WRONG. Man was not put on this earth to live in hive colonies, or in labor camps. WE THE PEOPLE SAY : NO! When the agitators who keep shouting about the climate start PERSONALLY ACTING like there is a real emergency, and STRICTLY limit their OWN energy usage to what they demand from others, then we will reconsider their trustworthiness. Until then, they can take a hike.
aksdad
Another Marxist screed masquerading as science or something. "...economic goals as a whole will need to be shifted, away from relentless GDP growth and the pursuit of wealth, towards prioritizing basic human needs and reducing inequality." Christians have been promoting that idea for a couple thousand years, but they do it through teaching and persuasion. Leftists intend to do it through government compulsion, never mind that every time socialism has been tried, it has resulted in widespread death, oppression, and poverty. But it's a "CLIMATE EMERGENCY" so we have to give up capitalism (freedom)! It's all a load of nonsense. Don't let a good crisis go to waste. Better yet, invent the crisis. There is no climate emergency, and now we know that being a scientist (one of the 11,000 anyway) doesn't mean you're smart.
Riaanh
@MattyE, I, on my side, have been keenly interested in ecology and the climate for decades, and my engineering degree included basic chemistry, calculus, and physics, etc. I absolutely believe what these people are saying. ......Climate deniers, wake up and smell the manure!!!
Aross
Although I do believe we are reaching a climate emergency I wholeheartedly disagree with so many of the plans and the fact that so many of them put the onus on the consumer. We did not create the problem. We did not convert from reusable glass containers to single use plastics in most food products. We did not convert from paper shopping bags to single use plastic ones. We did not switch from wrapping meat in butcher's paper to Styrofoam trays and plastic food wrap. When asked to recycle that stuff we did but most of it still ends up in dumps put there by the companies being paid to recycle waste. The only thing we the consumer are guilty of, besides over reproducing, is believing the corporate garbage about using their products to better our lives. All we are doing is lining the pockets of the people that are really responsible. It is time the consumer starts to fight back by avoiding anything that is harmful in the long run and using our heads when we buy.
piperTom
The primary goal is to "switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources as quickly as possible"? So it's clear there were no economists drafting this "report". It's POSSIBLE to end fossil fuel use this year, but it would be an economic disaster. Of course, it might be worth the cost because it would be a political disaster, too; a lot of fanatics would get unelected. And speaking of unscientific thoughts, what kind of science leads to "wealthier countries need to help less-wealthy ones"? The answer, of course, is no kind; this is a pure political position trying to masquerade as science. But the biggest point is this: the entire story is about things WE must DO. There is absolutely nothing about why warming is an emergency. SO, they want people to break the economy and they won't even tell us what's the rush!
paul314
Apparently the "They're all hypocrites" brigade hasn't yet figured out a riposte to the fact the Greta Thunberg came to address the UN by sailing across the atlantic, so they're ignoring it. The good news is that there still is a way out; the bad news is that enough people are against it that any halt to human population growth will be unplanned.
Nobody
I am a retired scientist with degrees in both physics and chemistry. I have been saddened to watch the decline in science credibility. Most of the work now done in labs is by people with little science training. The analysis is being done on machines which are advertised to need no special training. Much of the work is done by people who have no idea what they are doing but can read the directions on the machine and push a button. In other words, minimum wage workers with little scientific knowledge. Even most of the standards used today are based on copies of copies of copies of standards which were actually done with wet analysis in the 1950s and 1960s by real chemists. I found an unbelievable number of standard equipment used in labs all over the world with design and major software errors being run by technicians with no idea that their results were wrong. I have had to deal with statisticians who believed that the math purified corrupt data. So many people who have no concept of what the real problems are hired by people, who only wanted maximum profit, dictating the results they want. In short most scientific work is not done by real scientists and even most of the real scientists say what they are paid to say. Despite all of the warts, science and technology have moved ahead at an amazing pace. Now as to this article, what caught my eye wasn't the errors in perception and reality about climate but the claim that wealthier countries must help less-weathy ones. They seem to forget that cheap fossil fuels made us wealthy in the first place. It makes us able to grow enough cheap food to feed much of the world. It allows us to drive to work and heat our homes. It allows our standard of living. The socialist idea of taking from the rich will not help global warming but will increase global poverty and reduce personal freedom. Global warming is the least of our problems. The corrupt politicians trying to use global warming as a boogeyman to gain power and control over us is problem #1. Pollution and overpopulation are # 2&3.
J.Pulk*
What qualifies one to be a scientist? Not much from what I can extract from this article. Their solution is to return to the post Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction.
Signguy
Nobody, Aksdad; well said; "just drink the koolaid & all will be well"...Socialism has NEVER worked for the masses, only for the elites in control. Jesus gave us the best plan to follow.
Robbie Price
So reading through the comments it looks like the reason we can’t possibly be having a climate emergency is because we have an irrational fear of socialism and that modern scientists such as myself only spend about 9 years becoming scientists unlike the the three years it took in the fifties? Giving up the car to go to and from work is not a hardship and won’t make you poorer or your life less worthwhile. It may make you live a bit longer and if you ride or walk significant distances instead it may even keep you mobile longer. Giving up meat won’t make you suddenly weak or feeble. And neither of those life changes will make you poorer. The evidence and sciences suggest we are not managing the planet sustainably. That means we must change the way we live which means we must change the way we govern. Capitalism and consumerism have been a wonderful experience for many but it cannot go on indefinitely. As in all social change it will be difficult and some things we have come to take for granted will have to be relinquished to history. And history shows that if we don’t do it early the smart and easy way the options become fewer and harder. On the bright side no idiot has suggested is only 400ppm so it can’t matter yet on this thread...