Preface. I’m sure anyone reading this post knows it is too late to do anything but eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow … Although this warning was widely published, it was left out of over half of the top circulation newspapers, such as the New York Times. Not that it would matter. Most people don’t read newspapers, don’t understand science, are full of mindless optimism from sci-fi TV and movies, don’t want to read depressing articles, or think The Rapture is coming any day now so it doesn’t matter.
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]
Ripple et al. 2017. World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. BioScience.
Over 15,000 scientists from 184 countries signed the second notice.
The first warning (here) was made in 1992, when more than 1,700 scientists — including a majority of the living Nobel laureates at the time — signed a “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. They stated that humans were on a collision course with the natural world from our current, impending, or potential damage to Earth via ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine fishery collapses, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing the 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 planet can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm.
This second warning is even more urgent about changes needing to be made because conditions have worsened since 1992 significantly.
“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 the Earth with all its life is our only home.”
Among the negative trends are:
Declining Freshwater availability: Per capita freshwater availability is less than half of levels of the early 1960s with many people around the world suffering from a lack of fresh clean water. Much of this decrease in available water is due to an accelerated pace of human population growth and increases in agricultural water use. It is likely that climate change will have an overwhelming impact on the freshwater availability through alteration of the hydrologic cycle and water availability. Future water shortages will be detrimental to humans, affecting everything from drinking water, human heath, sanitation, and the production of crops for food.
Unsustainable marine fisheries: In 1992, the total marine catch was at or above the maximum sustainable yield and fisheries were on the verge of collapse, peaking in 1996 at 130 million tons in 1996 and has been declining ever since , despite an increase in fishing effort
A 75 % increase in the number of ocean dead zones. Coastal dead zones which are mainly caused by fertilizer runoff and fossil-fuel use, are killing large swaths of marine life. Dead zones with hypoxic, oxygen-depleted waters, are a significant stressor on marine systems and identified locations have dramatically increased since the 1960s, with more than 600 systems affected by 2010.
Deforestation. A loss of nearly 300 million acres of forestland, much of it converted for agricultural uses. Between 1990 and 2015, total forest area decreased from 4,128 to 3,999 million hectares, a net loss of 129 million hectares, approximately the size of South Africa.
Dwindling biodiversity. The world’s biodiversity is vanishing at an alarming rate and populations of vertebrate species are rapidly collapsing. Global ly,fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. Freshwater, marine, and terrestrial populations declined by 81%, 36%, and 35% respectively.
Continuing significant increases in global carbon emissions and average temperatures
Overpopulation. Over 2 billion people have been born since 1992 – a 35 % rise in human population.
We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.
Humanity is now being given a second notice as illustrated by these alarming trends (figure 1). We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats (Crist et al. 2017). By failing to adequately limit population growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, halt deforestation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere.
As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action, as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources.