Over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have acted as signatories to a paper published in the journal BioScience declaring that the Earth is “clearly and unequivocally” undergoing a climate emergency.

In the paper World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, authors from the University of Sydney, Oregon State University, University of Cape Town and Tufts University lay out the case that immediate, drastic action is needed to “avoid untold suffering” as a result of “the climate crisis”.

According to The University of Melbourne climate science and science communication lecturer Dr Linden Ashcroft, the paper paints a grim portrait of our current progress on fighting climate change. “This article adds to the roar from all fields of science that climate action needs to be taken now,” Dr Linden said. “The succinct summary shows clearly how much has changed in our environment, population, and energy sectors in the last 40 years. While there are some good signs, the majority of the graphs in this article are going up, when they need to be going down.”

The paper argues that while there have been some changes — like increases in the consumption of solar and wind power — these have not been sufficient:

Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament. 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. 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.

The authors of the paper point to six key steps that need to be taken immediately to avoid or mitigate the effects of the climate crisis:

  • Energy: This includes the implementation of “massive” energy efficiency and conservation practices worldwide, the ditching of fossil fuels, and for wealthier nations to assist poorer nations in making this transition.
  • Short-lived pollutants: “Promptly” reducing the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants,
    like methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons.
  • Food: Drastic reduction of food waste, in addition to the adoption of diets that consist of “mostly plant-based foods” as a part of larger reduction in the global consumption of animal products.
  • Nature: The protection and restoration of the planet’s ecosystems, especially as they pertain to things like phytoplankton, coral reefs, forests, savannas, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, soils, mangroves, and seagrasses, all of which “contribute greatly” to sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • Economy: A reduction in the “excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems,” as part of a broader policy shift that sees “sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being” prioritised over GDP growth and the cultivation of excessive personal wealth.
  • Population: Stabilising population growth through “proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on [greenhouse gas] emissions and biodiversity loss.” The paper cites examples like family-planning
    services available to everyone and making gender equality fully realised, including instituting “primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women.”

The paper urges the use of the data provided, hoping it will “better allow policymakers, the private sector, and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change.”

I also hope that.

Image: David Crosling / AAP Image