Act or face catastrophe – scientists
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.