The Earth’s vital signs have deteriorated to the point that “humanity is unequivocally facing a climate emergency,” according to a study recently released by a worldwide coalition of scientists.
According to the report, “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022,” published in the journal BioScience, 16 of the 35 planetary vital indicators used by the authors to measure climate change are at record extremes.
The authors of the report present new data showing an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, an increase in the loss of worldwide forest cover due to fires, and an increase in the incidence of the mosquito-borne dengue virus.
Despite an increase in pledges for fossil fuel divestment, they also observe significant increases in the use of fossil fuels during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 418 parts per million, the highest on record.
William Ripple, a distinguished professor in the Oregon State University College of Forestry, and postdoctoral researcher Christopher Wolf are the lead authors of the report, and 10 other U.S. and global scientists are co-authors. The study comes five years after “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” which was co-signed by more than 15,000 scientists from 184 nations and was published by Ripple in BioScience.
“As we can see by the annual surges in climate disasters, we are now in the midst of a major climate crisis, with far worse to come if we keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them,” Wolf said. “We implore our fellow scientists to join us in advocating for research-based approaches to climate and environmental decision-making.”
Other co-authors of the report are from the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Sydney, Independent University Bangladesh, the University of Cambridge, the University of Exeter, the Bezos Earth Fund, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“Climate change is not a standalone issue,” said Saleemul Huq of Independent University Bangladesh. “It is part of a larger systemic problem of ecological overshoot where human demand is exceeding the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. To avoid more untold human suffering, we need to protect nature, eliminate most fossil fuel emissions and support socially just climate adaptations with a focus on low-income areas that are most vulnerable.”
The report points out that in the three decades since more than 1,700 scientists signed the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, global greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 40%.
“As Earth’s temperatures are creeping up, the frequency or magnitude of some types of climate disasters may actually be leaping up,” said the University of Sydney’s Thomas Newsome. “We urge our fellow scientists around the world to speak out on climate change.”
In addition to Wolf and Ripple, three other OSU scientists are co-authors of the paper: Jillian Gregg, Matthew Betts, and Beverly Law.
“World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022” is an update of a paper published in BioScience three years ago. The Alliance of World Scientists, an independent organization formed to be a collective voice on environmental sustainability and human well-being, continues to collect co-signers on the 2019 paper. To date, more than 14,000 scientists from 158 countries have signed.
Ongoing work to spur climate change action by scientists around the world is chronicled in a new 35-minute documentary film “The Scientist’s Warning.” The film, by Oregon State Productions, is now available for free online viewing following its Oct. 14 premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival in Newport Beach, California.
“The Scientist’s Warning” also chronicles Ripple’s personal journey: from a rural, low-income childhood in South Dakota in the 1950s to becoming an ecologist in Yellowstone to assuming a role as a global advocate for using science to make informed policy decisions.
“Look at all of these fires, floods, and massive storms,” Ripple said. “The specter of climate change is at the door and pounding hard.”
Reference: “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022” by William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Jillian W. Gregg, Kelly Levin, Johan Rockström, Thomas M. Newsome, Matthew G. Betts, Saleemul Huq, Beverly E. Law, Luke Kemp, Peter Kalmus and Timothy M. Lenton, 26 October 2022, BioScience.
The study was funded by the CO2 Foundation, Karen Josephson, Peter Stoel, and Roger Worthington.
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