The latest Scientific evidence about anthropogenic climate change sends a stark message that we are in the midst of a ‘Climate Emergency’. Can their advice be heeded in time to reverse a potentially catastrophic outcome for Planet Earth?
With reports of Governments & World Leaders accepting that 2019 has been the worst year for climate change & with a seemingly endless outpouring of scientific data & reporting to corroborate the physical signs of anthropogenic climate change; it is growing increasingly difficult to find anything positive in amongst the negativity & climate emergency.
We are living in exponentially volatile times, with the future of a habitable Planet Earth at the core of everything humans are currently doing. Despite political & civil unrest being rife in several nations, Governmental discord abound through varying countries, disbelief in the effects of anthropogenic climate change from the US & secrecy & hidden realities; the one piece of evidence which cannot be denied, is that of Science.
It is no secret that over the past 40 years Scientists have been reporting of the impact of environmental disasters & climate change.
From the very first Climate Change Summit in Geneva (1979) to the Rio Summit (1992), the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, & the 2015 Paris Agreement; Scientists have been reporting on & warning of the impacts of an advancing climate shift & reporting on the anthropogenic reasoning behind the increase in GHG’s, global temperature & diminishing air quality.
Therefore, we have to ask the question, how come the warning signs have been there for over 40 years, (maybe longer when we take into account the impact WWI & WWII had on our ability to pay attention to the changing climate) yet with inaction & a seeming inability to process the needs of planet earth; we now find ourselves amidst the Sixth Mass Extinction & a global Climate Emergency?
Sir David Attenborough has long been seen as the global advocate for the impact humans have & are having on the natural world.
His many many televisual explorations of the natural world & animal/mammal/insect habitats all over the world; have seen a marked shift in the past few years towards highlighting the impact humans have on the natural world & the worlds natural resources.
Despite Attenborough always stating that he is non political & follows the BBC policy of political neutrality; it is no secret that in recent years he has used his notoriety to go some way to exposing the impact of climate change on the natural world through his televised explorations of Planet Earth & key note speaking. Attenborough having been reported as saying earlier this year “People ought to be concerned because they think the natural world is important. If they know nothing about the natural world they won’t care a toss.” (1) has now been held as one of the most influential people on Earth for bringing the plight of the natural world to the masses.
Despite his public need to be recognised as non-political, Sir David Attenborough has made it known that he is keenly aware of where the responsibilities lie for accountability for the impact of anthropogenic climate change “Many individuals are doing what they can. But real success can only come if there is a change in our societies and in our economics and in our politics.” & his most potent quote in recent times “The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of human’s” emphasises the recognition of the human impact on planet earth.
One cannot help but also consider Attenborough’s perpetual message that despite the fact that humans are concerned perpetually with their own survival; the impact which humans have had on the animals/mammals/insects of planet Earth, is non of their doing & humans have a responsibility to recognise their needs too, as many of them had evolved well before humans were upright.
With Attenborough’s recognition of the age of humans resonating, the most recent report which has not only recognised the urgency of the climate emergency facing Planet Earth, but also the immediate responses needed to enable Earth to remain a habitable space for any future generations; explores the scientific evidence, gathered over decades, which proves that action is required now & not in 2030,2050 or beyond.
The 11,000 signatories to the most recent scientific report published on 5th November 2019 by the American Institute of Biological Sciences from the Alliance of World Scientists project, opens with the statement “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, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” (2) With some climate activist groups pushing for scientific recognition & some world leaders stating that the science is bunkum; it is still s struggle to create a globally agreeable focus on the climate emergency facing Planet Earth. However, despite the stark realities released herein; there are options & solutions which if adopted in the now, could see Earth be saved from a catastrophic outcome.
The latest report recognises that human activities have contributed widely to the continued deforestation, increases in human & livestock population & an inability for the use of renewable energy to keep up with the demands of an ever increasing human population. The report also identifies that “three abundant atmospheric GHGs (CO2, methane, & nitrous oxide) continue to increase as does global surface temperature. Globally, ice has been rapidly disappearing, evidenced by declining trends in minimum summer Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and glacier thickness worldwide. Ocean heat content, ocean acidity, sea level, area burned in the United States, and extreme weather and associated damage costs have all been trending upward.” (2)
With a clear recognition that the wealthiest countries in the world are mostly contributory to the vast increase in GHG’s, population explosions & vast e-waste & human waste; it has also recognised that these wealthier countries have a responsibility to support developing countries move away from a reliance on fossil fuels & assist with implementing renewable energy capabilities. The report mostly recognises that the responsibility for the welfare of the planet humans inhabit is a global one, needed to be acted upon by every nation & every continent.
However, the report also recognises & advises that there are six areas which if acted upon in the now, could have a positive outcome for the planet & it’s inhabitants.
Energy – The world must quickly implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices and must replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables (figure 1h) and other cleaner sources of energy if safe for people and the environment (2)
Short-lived pollutants – Humans need to reduce the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane (figure 2b), black carbon (soot), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Doing this could slow climate feedback loops and potentially reduce the short-term warming trend by more than 50% over the next few decades (2)
Nature – Phytoplankton, coral reefs, forests, savannas, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, soils, mangroves, and sea grasses contribute greatly to sequestration of atmospheric CO2. Although available land may be limiting in places, up to a third of emissions reductions needed by 2030 for the Paris agreement (less than 2°C) could be obtained with these natural climate solutions (Griscom et al. 2017).
Food – Eating mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products (figure 1c–d), especially ruminant livestock (Ripple et al. 2014), can improve human health and significantly lower GHG emissions. Moreover, this will free up croplands for growing much-needed human plant food instead of livestock feed, while releasing some grazing land to support natural climate solutions. We need to drastically reduce the enormous amount of food waste around the world. (2)
Economy – Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed to maintain long-term sustainability of the biosphere. We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere and policies that guide economic decisions accordingly (2)
Population – Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year, or more than 200,000 per day the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity. There are proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss (2)
The closing statement of the report, allows a glimmer of hope in a seemingly never ending recognition of how global advancing climate change is already affecting all living things on Earth:
“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual. 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.” (2)
The final words need to be given over to the man who sits at the helm as representative to all living things on planet earth & his pleas he made during a recent interview : “You can do more and more and more the longer you live, but the best motto to think about is not waste things. Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food – live the way you want to live, but just don’t waste. Look after the natural world and the animals in it and the plants in it too. This is their planet as well as ours.” Sir David Attenborough (3)
Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2