The planet is dying, and thousands of scientists have teamed up to sound the alarm: this is a climate emergency. Published in BioScience, the article follows the 2019 warning issued by 11.000 scientists, now joined by 2800 more of their colleagues. Their newest analysis about Earth’s vital signs points to a catastrophic situation. That could come as a surprise, as the results are dramatically worse despite the pandemic that temporarily halted some of the biggest polluters.
The turbulent 2021
The scientists concluded that since their previous warning, the surge in climate-related disasters was unprecedented. We’ve experienced dreadful floods, heatwaves, wildfires, and hurricanes in the past few years. No need to dig too deep in memories: the few months of 2021 are enough proof that serious problems are here. World Economic Forum reports that insured losses from natural disasters reached $42 billion in the first six months of 2021.
North America suffered from wildfires. Germany, Belgium, and some of their neighbors were flooded. Cyprus experienced the worst forest fire in decades, a powerful tornado surprised the Czech Republic, and even Canada is getting unbearably hot.
Another problem is that we’ve crossed the lines that are incredibly risky. Among them is the destruction of West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, warm-water coral reefs, and the Amazon rainforest.
The Earth’s vital signs
The scientists are tracking 31 variables – so-called “vital signs” – and currently, 18 are at new all-time record lows or highs.
For the first time in history, livestock numbers have surpassed 4 billion. That means more mass than all humans and wild mammals combined.
It also turns out that the Amazon forest doesn’t deserve its “lungs of the Earth” label anymore. It is now a carbon source, not a carbon sink, due to the illegal land clearing for cattle and soy farming, fires, and droughts. Glaciers are melting incredibly fast and are losing 31% more snow and ice per year than they did just 15 years ago. On top of that, oceans are the warmest and most acidic ever.
“On the basis of recent trends in planetary vital signs, we reaffirm the climate emergency declaration and again call for transformative change, which is needed now more than ever to protect life on Earth and remain within as many planetary boundaries as possible,” the scientists say. They believe the change needs to come quickly, and it should be part of COVID-19 recovery plans.
At the same time, scientists warn that the climate emergency is not a stand-alone issue. “Global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system,” Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple told AFP. “Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
You’ve heard the alarm: it’s time to give our home a chance to recover. Whatever humanity will do, one thing is certain. The Earth will surely repay us.