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Group of 11,000 scientists declare: "Earth is facing a climate emergency”

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If you've been keeping up with the latest climate science (or news), you probably know that the Earth is experiencing a bit of a climate emergency. But for anyone who isn't so sure, a group of 11,000 scientists have banded together to officially declare it. A new article published in the scientific journal BioScience titled "World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency" written by a group known as the Alliance of World Scientists declares "clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency."

The article, published on Tuesday, Nov. 5, notes that despite scientists agreeing about the severity of the climate crisis at various international assemblies and summits over the past 40 years (including the Paris agreement), greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. The group, led by William J. Ripple, says that, "An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis." Basically we need to start significantly scaling up our efforts to protect the planet — or else something catastrophic could happen (and it kind of already is).

The authors then point out some of the fundamental reasons that the climate crisis has escalated to such a point. For one thing, they note that most of the public conversation regarding climate change focuses on global warming, which is only one part of the climate crisis. To combat this, they advise that policymakers and private citizens need to address the other components of the climate crisis.

Additionally, the authors posit that the climate crisis is correlated with consumption, namely from wealthy people and wealthy countries, which are generally responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions, the authors point out. This makes sense, as wealthier people and countries often buy a lot of things (therefore creating more demand for fossil fuels), eat more animal products (which are responsible for greater greenhouse gas emissions than diets lower on the food chain, which are more commonly eaten in undeveloped nations), drive cars instead of take public transportation, and heat and power large houses.

They also point out that a variety of human activities with large environmental impacts have gotten us to this climate emergency, namely:

  • Humans raising more and more ruminant livestock (namely cows raised for meat and dairy)
  • Meat production in general
  • World gross domestic product — essentially how much stuff we are producing globally
  • Global tree cover loss — basically, high deforestation rates
  • Use of fossil fuels
  • Air travel
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
  • As the authors state in the paper's opening sentence, "Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to 'tell it like it is.'" So, they have a few suggestions as to what we need to do to curb the climate crisis — because, as they put it, "To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live." 

    Their suggestions of what we need to do include:

  • Replace fossil fuels with renewables, and shift towards large-scale energy efficiency practices.
  • Eat mostly plant-based foods and drastically cut back on animal products. As they point out, this will free up croplands to grow crops for humans instead of livestock feed; improve human health; lower greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; and reduce food waste.
  • Ramp up conservation practices for our Earth's natural ecosystems.
  • Shift towards a carbon-free economy.
  • Stabilize the human population growth rate by providing accessible family-planning services and education, especially for young women and girls.
  • Educate the public on the severity of the climate crisis.
  • And the Alliance of World Scientists is not just publishing their advice and letting it go. As they write in their paper's conclusion, they are prepared to assist lawmakers in transitioning to policies and infrastructures that will help mitigate the climate emergency.

    "We believe that the 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," they conclude. Hopefully people will take the Alliance's warning seriously, and really start coming together to protect our planet.

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