Thousands of Scientists Declare a Climate Emergency

Photo: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens; NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

It only Tuesday, but more than 11,000 scientists around the world have come together to declare a climate emergency. Their paper, published Tuesday in the journal Bioscience, lays out the science behind this emergency and solutions for how we can deal with it.

Scientists aren’t the first people to make this declaration. A tribal nation in the Canadian Yukon, the U.K., and parts of Australia have all come to the same grim conclusion. In the U.S., members of Congress have pushed the federal government to do the same, but y’know, we got Donald Trump. Ain’t shit happening with this fool in office. Anyway, this proclamation from scientists is significant because they’re not doing it out of a political agenda or as an emotional outcry. They’re declaring a climate emergency because the science supports it.

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The signatories, who come from 153 countries, note that societies have taken little action to prevent climate disaster. It’s been business as usual, despite scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels and driving cars is gravely harming the environment—you know, the environment we all have to live in for the foreseeable future. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to enter the atmosphere, and if we don’t stop quickly, we’re doomed.

The scientists offer different indicators beyond global temperature that world leaders should monitor, such as population growth, meat consumption, energy consumption, and annual economic losses to extreme weather events. This can help us all track the progress we’ve made to address the climate crisis. Declining birth rates and an increase in renewable energy means things are getting better. A decrease in tree cover or growing livestock populations, however, signal the complete opposite. But there’s time time to act—and these scientists are urging us to heed their call.

“While things are bad, all is not hopeless,” said Thomas Newsome, a signatory and researcher at the University of Sydney, in a press release. “We can take steps to address the climate emergency.”

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These steps involve replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, reducing pollutants that exacerbate warming (such as hydrofluorocarbons), restoring forests, switching to a mostly plant-based diet, stabilizing the global population, and transforming the economy. Our fossil fuel-based economy has got to go if we’re going to solve climate change. Hmmm, Green New Deal, anyone? The scientists write:

Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honoring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems. We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities, and businesses are responding.

As an Alliance of World Scientists, we stand ready to assist decision makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future. We urge widespread use of vital signs, which will better allow policymakers, the private sector, and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change. The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well being in the long run than does business as usual. We believe that prospects will be greatest if decision makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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