Nowadays, we see celebrities warning about climate change, scientists terrified by its evident consequences, ordinary people speaking about the changes they have felt over the years.
But how frightening can it get? Are we aware of the extent to which our planet is endangered?
Well, the fact that 11,000 scientists from over 153 countries have declared a ‘climate emergency’ speaks volumes about it.
The analysis of more than 40 years of global data showed that we need to act immediately and stop global warming if we want to prevent widespread human suffering.
Researchers claim that it is their moral obligation to “clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat” and “tell it like it is”. They added that “clearly and unequivocally, planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
The letter, based on climate science that was first established in 1979 at the first World Climate Conference in Geneva, calls for urgent action.
Yet, even though numerous global bodies have agreed on it for decades, greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise.
Scientists claim that we are heading in the wrong direction, by taking backward steps like increased consumption of meat, deforestation, more air travel, and increased global carbon dioxide emissions.
William Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University, said:
“Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we have continued to conduct business as usual and have failed to address this crisis.”
He added that the rapid changes, like the rise of the global surface temperature, ocean heat content, sea level, ocean acidity, and land area, extreme weather, and the disappearance of ice, “as shown by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness” clearly indicate the emergency of the issue.
The group of scientists, including lead author Dr. Thomas Newsome from the University of Sydney, investigated measures like surface area, energy use, population growth, fertility rates, and carbon emissions.
Dr. Newsome believes that governments should have been more initiative, but hopes that this will trigger a global response.
“There has been little movements globally in terms of tackling the issue of climate change and so our major goal was to really come up with a new and broad set of graphical indicators to illustrate both the impacts that the humans are having on the climate and also the negative feedback loops associated with climate change.”
Apart from warning about the risks, the declaration also points out six areas that need to be immediately addressed to alleviate the impacts of global warming: replacing fossil fuels; cutting pollutants such as methane and soot; restoring and protecting ecosystems; consuming less meat; making economy carbon-free, and stabilizing population growth.
Yet, Dr. Newsome believes we can win the war against global warming with the right federal policy:
“[It is] a clear policy that signals to the business community that they are going to act on climate change and a clear policy to the people that they are going to act on climate change in a way that is going to change the trajectory of these graphs both at a country level and a global level.
I think they could also be encouraging individuals to change their individual behavior to help meet those goals because lots of small steps will help meet those global goals as well.”
The declaration was welcomed by numerous politicians and environmental advocacy groups.
In Australia, co-deputy leader of the Greens Party Adam Bandt believes that the federal parliament will follow suit and declare a climate emergency in Australia before things go out of control.
“We’ve got farmers who are suffering through record drought, we’ve got towns that have been told they might run out of water, we had parts of Australia start burning barely a couple of weeks out of winter, we are in a climate emergency. And the first step towards fixing a problem is admitting you’ve got a problem.
If the parliament follows the lead of the scientists and declares a climate emergency then we can refocus the whole of the countries efforts into stopping the climate crisis getting worse.”
Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) CEO Kelly O’Shanassay added that not only scientists but everyday people are calling for action:
” Everyone is now saying that climate change is here: ‘I can see it outside my window, I can see the drought, I can see the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef’. People are really worried about it and it is now pretty much everyone, from every walk of life is saying to our government please take action, because our lives depend on it.”
Yet, chances are low that the Coalition will immediately act as the declaration came just days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the government will support the mining industry, as it is vital for the economy and future of the country.
“Nothing more clearly defines, I think, a Liberal-Nationals Coalition government than our strong, full-throated support for traditional industries like mining. How good is mining for Australia.”
In a statement, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government intends to combat climate change:
“The Government has a track record in meeting and beating our targets. As a part of a coordinated global action to address climate change, we have strong targets to reduce our emissions by 2030 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. This target is achievable and responsible.
We have a clear plan to meet and beat our Paris commitment through our fully-funded $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package that has mapped out, to the last tonne, how to meet our 2030 target.”
On the other hand, the Australian Conservation Foundation reported that the burning of coal is one of the main causes of global warming in the first place.
Chief executive Kelly O’Shanassay warned that this can no longer be neglected:
“Science is very clear on it, they’ve been told that yet our Prime Minister as Treasurer goes into parliament [and] holds up a lump of coal and his government are very keen to continue to build new coal mines and new coal plants.
This is very, very dangerous for our future, especially when we’ve got the renewable energy that we can build now that is cheaper now, that is reliable now.
This is not a choice between the environment and jobs -- we can actually have electricity, we can have the jobs that they all produce but from renewable sources.”
Yet, authors of the declaration are optimistic:
“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.
Such swift action is our best hope to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.”