Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

14 Nov 2017

Time’s running out: do something

Posted by Michael Keating

The world is still going to hell in a handbasket. That’s the message from some 15,000 scientists from 184 countries in an open letter called World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. It harks back to the November 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in which 1,700 scientists from 49 countries warned, “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course,” and we had to change our destructive ways “ if vast human misery is to be avoided.” The ‘second notice’ tracks nine key indicators of planetary health over the intervening 25 years, finding declines in forests, wildlife and freshwater availability, and increases in greenhouse gases, ocean dead zones and human population. The only good news is the stabilization of the stratospheric ozone layer following the first global atmospheric treaty.

The new report comes at a time of great transition. There are dramatic increases in renewable energy projects, and forests are increasing in some parts of the world, But, there are forecasts of another rise in emissions from fossil-fuel burning and industries this year and next, driving even more climate change. A recent report found three-quarters of flying insects had vanished from nature reserves in Germany in 25 years, a trend that may be more widespread. Another report said that globally one in six deaths was linked to pollution, mainly air pollution in poor nations.

The second notice report blames problems on excessive material consumption, and calls for cuts to greenhouse gases and the destruction of nature. It asks people to limit reproduction to replacement levels, and to drastically cut individual consumption of fossil fuels, meat and other resources. If we do not act, it says, “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.” The second notice project was led by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, and has led to a new organization, the Alliance of World Scientists, aimed at providing a science-based perspective on issues affecting the well-being of people and the planet.

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