Act or face catas­tro­phe – sci­en­tists

Sunshine Coast Daily - - NATION & WORLD NEWS - Andrew Griffin The In­de­pen­dent

A NEW, dire “warn­ing to hu­man­ity” about the dangers to all of us has been writ­ten by 15,000 sci­en­tists from around the world.

The mes­sage up­dates an orig­i­nal warn­ing sent from the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists 25 years ago and backed by 1700 sig­na­tures.

But the ex­perts say the pic­ture is far, far worse than it was in 1992 and al­most all of the prob­lems iden­ti­fied then have be­come worse.

Hu­mankind is still fac­ing the ex­is­ten­tial threat of run­away con­sump­tion of lim­ited re­sources by a rapidly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, they warn. And “sci­en­tists, me­dia in­flu­encers and lay cit­i­zens” aren’t do­ing enough to fight against it.

If the world doesn’t act soon, there will be cat­a­strophic bio­di­ver­sity loss and un­told amounts of hu­man mis­ery, the let­ter warns.

Only the hole in the ozone layer has im­proved since the first let­ter – and the new let­ter urges hu­man­ity to use that as an ex­am­ple of what can hap­pen when it acts de­ci­sively. But ev­ery other threat has just got worse, and there is not long left be­fore those changes can never be re­versed.

There are some causes for hope, the let­ter sug­gests, but hu­man­ity isn’t do­ing nearly enough to utilise them.

“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our fail­ing tra­jec­tory, and time is run­ning out. We must recog­nise, in our day-to-day lives and in our gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tions, that Earth with all its life is our only home,” the let­ter warns.

A host of en­vi­ron­men­tal calami­ties are high­lighted, in­clud­ing cat­a­strophic cli­mate change, de­for­est- ation, mass species ex­tinc­tion, ocean “dead zones” and lack of fresh wa­ter.

In the jour­nal BioS­cience, the sci­en­tists, led by US ecol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Wil­liam Rip­ple, said: “Hu­man­ity is now be­ing given a sec­ond no­tice ... we are jeop­ar­dis­ing our fu­ture by not rein­ing in our in­tense but ge­o­graph­i­cally and de­mo­graph­i­cally un­even ma­te­rial con­sump­tion and by not per­ceiv­ing con­tin­ued rapid pop­u­la­tion growth as a pri­mary driver be­hind many eco­log­i­cal and even so­ci­etal threats.”

The no­tice, writ­ten as an “viewpoint” ar­ti­cle, won the sup­port of 15,364 sci­en­tists from 184 coun­tries who agreed to sign.

The au­thors drew on data from gov­ern­ment agen­cies, non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­ual re­searchers to set out the case that en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts were likely to in­flict “sub­stan­tial and ir­re­versible harm” to Earth. In the past 25 years: The amount of fresh wa­ter per head world­wide has re­duced by 26%;

The num­ber of ocean “dead zones” – places where lit­tle can live be­cause of pol­lu­tion and oxy­gen star­va­tion – has in­creased 75%;

Nearly 1.2 mil­lion hectares of for­est have been lost, mostly to make way for agri­cul­tural land;

Global car­bon emis­sions and av­er­age tem­per­a­tures have shown con­tin­ued sig­nif­i­cant in­creases;

Hu­man pop­u­la­tion has risen by 35%;

The num­ber of mam­mals, rep­tiles, am­phib­ians, birds and fish has fallen by 29%.

The sci­en­tists formed an in­de­pen­dent or­gan­i­sa­tion called the Al­liance of World Sci­en­tists to voice con­cerns about en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and the fate of hu­man­ity.

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