More than 11,000 scientists around the world have declared a climate emergency

6 Nov 2019

Image: PA Media

After analysing more than 40 years of data, scientists around the world are warning of ‘untold suffering’ unless urgent steps are taken to address the climate crisis.

More than 11,000 scientists around the world have declared a climate emergency, warning of “untold suffering” without urgent action.

The declaration is based on analysis of more than 40 years of publicly available data covering a range of measures from energy use to deforestation and carbon emissions.

Scientists from the University of Sydney in Australia, Oregon State University and Tufts University in the US, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa are joined in the warning by 11,000 signatories from 153 countries.

In a paper published in the journal Bioscience, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference held in Geneva in 1979, the researchers set out indicators showing the impacts of humans on the climate.

‘From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency’

The paper describes “profoundly troubling” signs from activities including sustained increases in human populations, the amount of meat consumed per person, the number of air passengers carried and global tree-cover loss, as well as carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

The scientists warn that despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, people have largely failed to address the problem of global warming.

Now “the climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected”, they say.

‘We can take steps’

But there is hope, the researchers add. The scientists have set out six areas where governments, businesses and the rest of humanity can take action to lessen the worst effects of climate change.

Replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and other cleaner sources of energy is a top priority, the research explains, alongside implementing passive energy-saving practices and taking prompt action to reduce short-lived pollutants such as methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons.

Overexploitation of resources, driven by economic growth, also needs to be curtailed, and the scientists noted that the population must stabilise and “ideally gradually reduce” through policies such as increased access to family planning services and making primary and secondary-level education the global norm for all, particularly young women and girls.

Finally, the research stressed the need to protect and restore the earth’s natural ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, mangroves and seagrasses, which store carbon. It also recommended a primarily plant-based diet and a reduction in the consumption of animal products.

Dr Thomas Newsome at the University of Sydney said: “Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat.

“From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency.”

Newsome said that measuring global surface temperatures as a marker of climate change will remain important. However, a “broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events”.

They could be used for the public, policymakers and businesses to track progress over time. “While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency,” he added.

– PA Media