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A warning that needs heeding

Opinion Piece

With jurisdictions around the world declaring a climate emergency — or, with their public, debating the merits of such — a new and persuasive study published this week provides a reality check as to why the international community needs to act boldly, and how.

Titled “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency”, the study is one for the times. It is clear and concise, covering just four pages of the journal Bioscience, with two dominated by graphical “vital signs” of climate change over the past 40 years for human activities that can affect Greenhouse Gas emissions and the climate, and actual climatic impacts. It ditches the usual language of scientific assessments of global warming, where conclusions are couched in uncertainties. It backs the term “climate emergency” that until now has been used mainly by activists and left-leaning politicians. And it prescribes policies.

It begins: “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.”

Continues: “An immense increase of scale in endeavours to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis (IPCC 2018).”

And explains: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected (figure 2, IPCC 2018). It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity (IPCC 2019). Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature’s reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic ‘hothouse Earth’, well beyond the control of humans (Steffen et al. 2018).”

Having said that we must change how we live “in ways that improve the vital signs summarised by our graphs” to secure a sustainable future, and identified the need for “bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies”, the study’s authors then suggest “six critical and interrelated steps that governments, businesses and the rest of humanity can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change”.

More on those next week, but your editor encourages you to read and view this important study, which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/yy4799ym