World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency

Progress Namibia - World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency
12 November 2019

Scientists have a moral obligation - it is part of their job actually - to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to tell it like it is. On this basis, climate scientists around the world have endorsed a paper published earlier this month by Ripple and other authors (including Phoebe Barnard, a scientist who worked in Namibia for many years), that we are facing a climate emergency. They say that an immense increase of scale in endeavours to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering. In their paper, they present a suite of graphical vital signs of climate change over the last 40 years. The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. They say that profoundly troubling signs from human activities include sustained increases in both human and ruminant livestock populations, per capita meat production, world gross domestic product, global tree cover loss, the number of air passengers carried, carbon dioxide emissions,. Encouraging signs include decreases in global birth rates, decelerated forest loss in the Amazon, increases in the consumption of solar and wind power, institutional fossil fuel divestment of more than USD 7 trillion. However, while the consumption of solar and wind energy has increased 373% per decade, it is still 28 times smaller than fossil fuel consumption. We should be leaving all oil in the ground. Especially disturbing, they say is that concurrent trends in the vital signs of climatic impacts continue to increase (i.e. GHG emissions). Global surface temperature is increasing, ice is melting, ocean heat content is increasing, wild fires, droughts, and the like. Climate change is predicted to greatly affect marine, freshwater, and terrestrial life, from plankton and corals to fishes and forests. Despite 40 years of climate negotiations, there has generally been little shift from business as usual. As a result, the climate crisis has arrived, and is accelerating much faster than most scientists have predicted. It is also more severe than predicted and is threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity. We need to remember that there are tipping points and nature's reinforcing feedbacks that could lead to irreversible and catastrophic changes beyond the control of humans. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth inhabitable. Economic growth is among the most important drivers of this and therefore we need bold and drastic transformations. The authors outline six key areas of radical and urgent change, namely:

1. Energy: the world must quickly implement energy efficiency, replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables, and leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground. Wealthier countries carry the obligation to support developing nations in carrying the costs of this transition.
2. Short-lived pollutants: we need to urgently reduce the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, black carbon (soot), and HFCs.
3. Nature: We must protect and restore Earth's ecosystems urgently.
4. Food: Reduce meat consumption in countries with arable land, practice conservation agriculture, and drastically reduce food waste.
5. Economy: We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere, our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human wellbeing by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality.
6. Population: The world population (currently increasing by 200,000 per day) needs to be stabilized urgently, and gradually reduced within a framework that ensures social integrity.

They conclude by saying that the good news, the silver lining, is that transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human wellbeing than does business as usual.

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