Today 11,000 scientists from 153 countries signed a declaration warning of our climate emergency. A declaration – a public show of activism – is as close to a shriek of terror as it gets in science speak. They declared:
“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
I’m struck, again today as every day, by the alternate universes revealed to us in social and news media:
- research-based, peer-reviewed science – from the flow of dry research reports to today’s impassioned cry from climate scientists.
- the stock markets, which every day trump business as usual, with few indications that all human systems are nearing a cliff.
- politics, especially in the United States and United Kingdom, of which we expected more, seem increasingly unbelievable. (Surely this is all a nightmare, and soon we’ll all awake to a more sane world?)
- news of astonishing human capabilities and technology achievements, such as the Voyager 2 probe reporting from interstellar space.
Today I wonder, will humanity in the near future even be capable of receiving messages from the Voyagers? The pair of probes were launched 42 years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president of the US. But that was then. Now, America has told the United Nations it’s pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.
If enough people turn their attention from the incoherent screams rising from Washington and London, and listened to science, the voice from the Voyagers might reach receptive ears. For that to occur, we’d have to heed the 11,000 scientists shrieking at us to take action.
They urge our attention on six fronts: energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy, and population.
As the scientists point out, addressing the crisis requires a major transformation. Have we a chance? Maybe?
Said the declaration: “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.”
Update, November 26, 2019:
The United Nations annual emissions gap report, released Nov. 26, 2019, compares where greenhouse gas emissions are heading, versus where they need to be. It concluded “emissions need to fall by 7.6 per cent each year over the next decade, if the world is to get back on track towards the goal of limiting temperature rises to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
The bad news? ” “We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020 … to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director. “If we don’t do this, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”
The good news? “it is possible to reach the 1.5 degree goal by 2030; the technology exists, and there is increased understanding of the additional benefits of climate action, in terms of health and the economy. Many governments, cities, businesses and investors are engaged in ambitious initiatives to lower emissions. ”
World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, BioScience journal, Oxford University Press, Nov. 5 2019. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806
Nasdaq, Dow, hit new record high on trade hopes, Financial Times, Nov. 5, 2019, https://www.ft.com/content/801b246a-ff68-11e9-b7bc-f3fa4e77dd47
New York Times politics coverage, https://www.nytimes.com/section/politics
Voyager, NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory web site, https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/
United Nations annual emissions gap report, Nov. 26, 2019: https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/11/1052171