Climate emergency declared by 13,000 scientists
Our words carry a lot of meaning. Careful choice is required to avoid under or overstating a message. Nevertheless, we have a habit of using hyperbole in our everyday language, whether it be to make oneself seem more interesting, to make a headline more click-worthy, or to emphasise a point in an argument. Scientists, however, have an obligation to be clear and unambiguous in their communications; there is no room for dramatic exaggeration in the scientific space. So, when over 13,000 scientists declare unequivocally that the Earth is facing a climate emergency, we need to take it seriously.
In an article published by the academic journal BioScience titled “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency”, authors presented a number of graphs showing damning climate change trends. They also discussed the moral duty of scientists to clearly communicate to humanity any catastrophic threats and concluded that, based on this, a climate emergency should be declared. At the time of the article’s publication, over 11,000 scientists had become signatories, showing their agreement with the statement. Since, the number of scientist signatories has risen to 13,700.
An emergency is defined as a serious and often dangerous situation which demands an immediate response to mitigate. All the evidence points towards climate change perfectly meeting this definition. The authors of the BioScience article state that “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 light of this, the paper offers six important steps that humanity must follow to mitigate the worst parts of the climate emergency, covering energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy, and population. These steps are summarised below.
Replace fossil fuels with cleaner sources
Leave leftover stocks of fuel in the ground
Use carbon extraction and carbon capture technologies
Support poorer nations to transition to cleaner energy sources
Increase carbon prices
Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies
Reduce the emissions of pollutants including methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons
Protect existing ecosystems and restore the systems affected by biodiversity and habitat loss
Increase afforestation and reforestation at an enormous scale
Reduce global consumption of animal products
Use cropping practices which increase soil carbon
Massively reduce global food waste
Goals must be directed towards sustainable ecosystems and reducing inequality, not towards GDP growth
Overexploitation of ecosystems and natural materials driven by economic growth must be stopped
A carbon-free economy is needed with relevant guiding policies
The world’s human population must be stabilised and preferably, reduced over time
This can be done by increasing the availability of family-planning services for all and reaching full gender equality
Achieving these steps will be no simple task, but it is vital to the survival of our planet and our species that we do. In the face of an emergency of this magnitude, we cannot afford to be idle.