‘Untold human suffering’: 11,000 scientists from across world unite to declare global climate emergency

‘Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we conduct business as usual and have failed to address this crisis,’ group says

World scientists declare climate emergency

Eleven thousand scientists in 153 countries have declared a climate emergency and warned that “untold human suffering” is unavoidable without huge shifts in the way we live.

The letter is based on climate science that was first established in 1979 at the first World Climate Conference held in Geneva. For decades multiple global bodies have agreed urgent action is needed but greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

“Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we have continued to conduct business as usual and have failed to address this crisis,” said William Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University, who spearheaded the letter.

“Climate change has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected,” according to the letter published in BioScience.

Researchers say they have a moral obligation to “clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat” and “tell it like it is”. “Clearly and unequivocally planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” they state.

Although there are some positive indicators – such as declining birth rates and a rise in renewable energy use – most indicators suggest humans are rapidly heading in the wrong direction, they say.

Backward steps include rising meat consumption, more air travel, chopping down forests faster than ever and increase in global carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists say they want the public to “understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change”.

To do so will require major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems, they say.

The letter focuses on six key objectives: replacing fossil fuels; cutting pollutants like methane and soot; restoring and protecting ecosystems; eating less meat; converting the economy to one that is carbon-free and stabilising population growth.

“Global surface temperature, ocean heat content, extreme weather and its costs, sea level, ocean acidity and land area are all rising,” Professor Ripple said.

“Ice is rapidly disappearing as shown by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness. All of these rapid changes highlight the urgent need for action.”

Lead author, Dr Thomas Newsome from the University of Sydney, said measuring global surface temperatures remained important but that a broader set of indicators should be monitored.

This includes “human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events”, he said.

“While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency,” he said.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

The authors say that despite the gloomy outlook there is room for optimism.

“We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations,” they write.

“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.

“Such swift action is our best hope to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in