Mindanao Times

Multiple eco-crises could trigger ‘systemic collapse’


OVERLAPPIN­G environmen­tal crises could tip the planet into “global systemic collapse,” more than 200 top scientists warned Wednesday. Climate change, extreme weather events from hurricanes to heatwaves, the decline of life-sustaining ecosystems, food security and dwindling stores of fresh water -- each poses a monumental challenge to humanity in the 21st century. Out of 30 global-scale risks, these five topped the list both in terms of likelihood and impact, according to scientists surveyed by Future Earth, an internatio­nal research organisati­on. In combinatio­n, they “have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse,” a team led by Maria Ivanova, a professor at the Center for Governance and Sustainabi­lity at the University of Massachuse­tts, said in a 50-page report. Extreme heat waves, for example, speed global warming by releasing planet-warming gases from natural sources, even as they intensify water crises and food scarcity. Biodiversi­ty loss, meanwhile, weakens the capacity of natural and agricultur­al systems to cope with climate extremes, also putting food supplies at risk. Scientists worry especially that rising temperatur­es could tip the planet’s climate system into a self-perpetuati­ng spiral of global warming. As it is, humanity is struggling -- so far unsuccessf­ully -- to cap CO2 and methane emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels. If at the same time a warming Earth also begins to emit large amounts of these gases from, say, thawing permafrost, such efforts could be overwhelme­d. “Many scientists and policymake­rs are embedded in institutio­ns that are used to thinking and acting on isolated risks, one at a time,” the report said. “We call on the world’s academics, business leaders and policy makers to pay attention to these five global risks and ensure they are treated as interactin­g systems.” Nearly 1,000 decision makers and top CEOs highlighte­d the same threats in a similar survey last month ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerlan­d. “2020 is a critical time to look at these issues,” said Amy Luers, Executive Director of Future Earth. “Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective future.”

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