The scientific consensus is clear: we are facing an unprecedented global emergency. We are in an “act now” or “face extinction” situation of our own making. We have been left with no choice but to act. Sustainability is no longer sufficient, we now have to focus on restoration. The single most important things you must remember when reading what follows is this: Humankind has to unite together to do everything in our power to prevent extinction, and that standard political processes will not achieve what is necessary before the problem is truly beyond human capabilities to solve.
“This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action.”
Ban-ki Moon, former secretary general of the United Nations
The first scientific theories which drew out the possibilities of mankind’s emissions altering the Earths atmosphere go as far back as the late 1890s. The warnings have been continually ignored or downplayed by governments, and the world’s rate of Climate Changing emissions have gone up dramatically, so much so that more than half of all carbon emissions humanity has ever produced have been released into the atmosphere
In 1988, a NASA Scientist testified before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources that “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming…It is already happening now” and “The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now… We already reached the point where the greenhouse effect is important.” Hansen said that NASA was 99% confident that the warming was caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and not a random fluctuation.
Dr. Hansen shared with the general public for the first time the broad scientific consensus on the relationship between mankind’s production of greenhouse gasses and its effect on the climate. His testimony received wide public attention and was heard around the globe
In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists including the majority of living science Nobel laureates, penned the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” calling on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and warning that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” They showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.
The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm. They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.
In 2017, humanity was given a second notice. Over 15,000 scientists signed a new and even more urgently worded letter which warned that “To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”
2017 – Present
Despite the growing and already well-established body of evidence, and the (insufficient) Paris Agreement of 2015, governments the world over have continued to ignore the threat of environmental collapse; increasing their emissions in the pursuit of economic growth.
Given the continued increase in global emissions and the lack of action from most of the world’s government, the broad consensus is that we have at best just over 10 years to reach net zero global emissions and begin the large-scale recapturing of the carbon already in the atmosphere. If we do not achieve this goal, we are guaranteed to face the collapse of society as we know it, within the next 35 years, and the literal end of our species.
If we consider that 20 of the 22 hottest years on record have occurred in the last 22 years and that the four years between 2014 and 2018 have been the hottest on record, we should be preparing for any number of unseen and sudden accelerations in the rate of climate change. The permafrost is melting at unprecedented rates, so fast that scientists are losing the equipment they are using to study its thawing. The organic matter that remained frozen in the permafrost has begun to decay, releasing unthinkable amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. New research indicates we underestimated the energy stored in the world’s oceans by a factor of six.
A hot house Earth scenario is no longer an exageration.
Indicators of the Extinction
Extinction is a naturally occurring phenomenon, with a “background” rate of between one and five species going extinction every year. Scientists estimate that extinction is currently happening at approximately 1000 times its natural rate, with literally dozens of species going extinct every day! This increase is the direct result of mankind’s effect on the environment, and the collapse in biodiversity which accompanies the extinction of many species of animal threatens our existence on Earth. The direct causes of biodiversity loss being habitat change, overexploitation, the introduction of invasive alien species, nutrient loading and climate change
Wild animal populations have on average declined 60% since 1970. Currently, 96% of mammal life on Earth is made up of humans and the animals we eat. The International Union for Co
Catastrophic reductions in global insect populations have profound consequences for ecological food chains, human crop pollination, and crop yields.
At our current rate of ecological destruction and climate change, the total insect biomass on Earth is declining at a staggering 2.5% per year. Insects, and the other microbial life that exists in the soil with
equalsno food, [which] equals no people,”
Dino Martins, an entomologist at Kenya’s Mpala Research Centre
Societal collapse and the Environment
Our societies are complicated and delicate things, generally held together by the availability of drinkable water, food, medical innovations which limit the spread of disease and populations which increase steadily. Societies emerge in the brittle nexus between these carefully managed factors, each with an effect on the others.
As of 2018, the
Some reports estimate that by 2050 over 1,000,000,000 (one billion) people will have been displaced by Climate Change, either because of rising sea levels or unlivable temperature conditions. Heat strain is becoming a more and more common medical diagnosis, and many millions of people will soon choose to vacate places like Western Africa, Tropical South America, the Middle-East, and South-West Asia due to persistent temperatures in excess of 55 degrees centigrade for more than 100 days a year. Countries like the Maldives, who have an average
Beyond the threat of dramatically reduced harvests, as a result of collapsing insect and microbial biodiversity in the soil, population displacement as described above will place extra strain on an already strained food supply. In addition, higher temperatures can also diminish people’s ability to work, particularly in agriculture, leading to tens of billions of hours of lost labor capacity each year, meaning less a generally less productive agricultural sector globally.
A recent study looking at the impact of climate change on food production for the top four maize-exporting countries, which currently account for over 85% of global maize exports, found that “the probability that they have simultaneous production losses greater than 10% in any given year is presently virtually zero, but it increases to 7% under 2°C warming and 86% under 4°C warming “
Extreme droughts and floods are affecting already vulnerable communities, particularly in Southeast Asia and South America. Drought affects agricultural yields, in turn heightening the risk of early death, hunger and childhood malnutrition. With drought often comes more dust, which can aggravate allergies and asthma and can also accelerate the reproduction of disease-causing fungi in soil.
The same report as earlier cited, co-authored by a former coal industry executive and the previous commander of Australia’s armed forces estimates that approximately two billion people will be subjected to severe water shortages within the next 31 years. Let us not forget that not Cape Town, South Africa, already came within days of running out of water in 2018. Take this again in consideration of migrating populations running from unliveable conditions as outlined above.
Increased spread of diseases
Diseases like dengue fever have already begun popping up in unexpected places (the USA). The spread of Malaria, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever are all compounded by increased temperatures. Even small changes in temperature and rainfall can have a significant effect on where diseases that are spread by bugs and water can take hold. A report published in The Lancet, a trusted medical journal, indicates that a failure to rein in emissions could lead to disasters that “disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.”