Climate Emergency: More Than 11,000 Scientists Warn of "Untold Suffering"
Tue, April 20, 2021

Climate Emergency: More Than 11,000 Scientists Warn of "Untold Suffering"

Humans have been increasingly affecting the global climate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. / Photo by: Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock

 

Reports are continuously providing us with ample evidence that the climate crisis is real. About 97 percent of scientists believe that it is happening and humans are the main reason why. But the evidence of climate change is not only seen through statistics and reports but also on how countries, particularly developing nations, are affected by it.

Time, an American weekly news magazine and news website, reported that Laos will experience a strain on infrastructure and resources due to the climate crisis, which will threaten their economy. The country is likely to be affected by coastal erosion and contaminable potable water as sea levels rise. This could damage people’s local agriculture and fishing industry, which could be dire in a country with “tremendous” poverty. 

Another example is how the Philippines is facing the impacts of climate change. While it is at the “forefront of adaptation” to climate change, reports showed that the country faces a high risk of natural disasters that include earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and hurricanes. In fact, a 2009 flood had submerged 80 percent of Manila, the country's capital city. 

Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, may be wiped off the map entirely in the coming decades due to rising sea levels. But before this happens, the country could see could suffer from contamination of its freshwater source and harm to its soil, which is not especially fertile for agriculture to begin with. At the same time, Kiribati’s fishing industry will be greatly affected due to coral bleaching, marine heatwaves, damage to the structure of reefs, and other conditions that force marine life to move north.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Millions of people across the world, especially those who are living in marginalized communities, are suffering from extreme poverty and hunger due to the climate crisis.

Scientists Declare Climate Emergency

According to The Sanders Institute, an organization that aims to revitalize democracy, humans have been increasingly affecting the global climate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. “The majority of the warming at the global scale over the past 50 years can only be explained by the effects of human influences, especially the emissions from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and from deforestation,” it said. 

While it is true that countries and individuals are doing their part to save our planet, all of these efforts are not enough. On the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 nations released a statement warning us that humanity is on track to face “untold suffering” if we continue our current climate change trajectory. This marks the first time a large group of experts across the world has said the Earth is facing a “climate emergency” caused predominantly by human activities.

According to The Guardian, an online British site, a statement published in the journal BioScience stressed that the climate crisis is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. Its severity will threaten not only natural ecosystems but also the fate of humanity. Lead author professor William Ripple from the Oregon State University stated that the main goal of the statement is to set out a full range of “vital signs” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown. The scientists reported that there should be major and urgent changes to prevent this, including slashing meat-eating, halting forest destruction, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, and ending population growth. 

 

According to the scientists, one of the major and urgent changes to prevent the climate crisis is halting forest destruction. / Photo by: Piotr Wawrzyniuk via Shutterstock

 

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems,” the statement said. 

Co-author Thomas Newsome from the University of Sydney suggested monitoring a broader set of indicators that include fossil-fuel subsidies, energy consumption, tree-cover loss, meat consumption, human population growth, and annual economic losses to extreme weather events. The scientists also emphasized how humans have failed to address climate change despite 40 years of global climate negotiations. If this continues, we should expect significant disruptions to society, ecosystems, and economies. This could potentially make large areas of Earth uninhabitable. 

“We urge widespread use of the vital signs [to] allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities, and track progress,” the scientists said.

Many Countries are Not Hitting the Paris Agreement Target

Recently, the US government officially submitted a request to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, an effort signed by 196 nations “to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change.” Aside from the US backing out from the agreement, “The Truth Behind the Paris Agreement Climate Pledges” report showed that many countries are failing with their targets. 

According to the National Geographic, an American pay television network and flagship channel that is owned by National Geographic Partners, 75 percent of 184 pledges for the 2030 goal to keep global warming well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) were insufficient. The report revealed that China and India, the world’s first and fourth biggest emitters, will have higher emissions in 2030. Aside from that, Russia, the fifth-largest emitter, hasn’t even bothered to make a pledge.

Energy economist Nebojsa Nakicenovic, former CEO of the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) emphasized the importance of reaching the Paris Agreement climate target because global emissions need to be halved by the next decade and net-zero by mid-century. This will not substantially slow climate change considering the current trajectory of the agreement.

“Countries need to double and triple their 2030 reduction commitments to be aligned with the Paris target,” Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-author of the report, said. 

As of now, reports about the climate crisis are not showing that much progress. This is a critical time for governments and individuals to start making huge steps in saving our planet before it’s too late.