Thousands of scientists have repeated calls for urgent action to address the climate emergency, warning that several tipping points are now imminent.
The researchers, part of a group of more than 14,000 scientists who have joined an initiative declaring a global climate emergency, said in an article published in the journal BioScience on Wednesday that governments had not systematically addressed “the overexploitation of the Earth. “. , which they described as the root cause of the crisis.
Since a similar assessment in 2019, they noted an “ unprecedented increase ” in weather-related disasters, including floods in South America and Southeast Asia, heat waves and record wildfires in Australia and the US, And devastating cyclones in Africa and South Asia.
For the study, the scientists relied on “vital signs” to measure the health of the planet, including deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, glacier thickness, and the extent of sea ice and deforestation. Of 31 signals, they found that 18 reached all-time highs or lows.
For example, despite a drop in pollution related to the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of atmospheric CO2 and methane reached record highs in 2021.
Greenland and Antarctica recently showed low levels of ice mass, and glaciers are melting 31 percent faster than just 15 years ago, the authors said.
Ocean heat and global sea levels set new records since 2019, and the annual rate of loss from the Brazilian Amazon reached a 12-year high in 2020.
Echoing previous research, the researchers said forest degradation linked to fire, drought and logging was causing parts of the Brazilian Amazon to now act as a carbon source, rather than absorb gas from the atmosphere.
Livestock, such as cows and sheep, are now at record levels, with more than four billion and a mass that exceeds that of all humans and wild land mammals combined, they said.
‘Addressing the root cause’
Tim Lenton, director of the Institute for Global Systems at the University of Exeter and a co-author of the study, said that recent record heat waves in the western United States and Canada demonstrated that the climate had already begun to “behave in shocking and unexpected ways. “.
“We need to respond to the evidence that we are reaching climate tipping points with equally urgent action to decarbonize the global economy and begin restoring rather than destroying nature,” he said.
The researchers said there was “increasing evidence that we are approaching or have already crossed” a series of climate tipping points.
These include the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which may now be irreversible on a centuries-long time scale regardless of how or if the human race drastically reduces its emissions.
They said increased ocean deoxygenation and warming waters threatened warm-water coral reefs, which 500 million people depend on for food, income and protection from storms.
“Given these alarming developments, we need short, frequent and easily accessible updates on the climate emergency,” the study said.
The authors repeated previous calls for transformative change in six areas: eliminating fossil fuels, reducing pollutants, restoring ecosystems, switching to plant-based diets, moving away from undefined growth patterns, and stabilizing the human population.
They also called for climate change education to be included in the core curricula of schools globally to raise awareness on the subject.
In the immediate term, they proposed a trio of emergency responses to the climate emergency.
These consisted of “a significant carbon price”, a global phase-out and ban on fossil fuels, and the development of strategic climate reserves, such as the restoration and maintenance of carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots.
“We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a separate problem – global warming is not the only symptom of our stressed Earth system,” said William Ripple, a distinguished ecology professor at the Oregon State University School of Forestry.
“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptom must address its root cause: human overexploitation of the planet,” Ripple said.
He added: “We need to quickly change the way we are doing things, and new climate policies should be part of COVID-19 recovery plans whenever possible.”