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Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’
by BioScience Journal, agencies
Nov. 2019
The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “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.”
There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.
Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events,” said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney.
Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said.
As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said: “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament.
Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making 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.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.”
The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment. Rates of forest destruction in the Amazon had also been falling until a recent increase under new president Jair Bolsonaro.
They set out a series of urgently needed actions: Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use; Stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day – using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls; End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2; Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste; Shift economic goals away from GDP growth.
“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,” the scientists said. The recent surge of concern was encouraging, they added, from the global school strikes to lawsuits against polluters and some nations and businesses starting to respond.
A warning of the dangers of pollution and a looming mass extinction of wildlife on Earth, also led by Ripple, was published in 2017. It was supported by more than 15,000 scientists and read out in parliaments from Canada to Israel. It came 25 years after the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, which said: “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”
Ripple said scientists have a moral obligation to issue warnings of catastrophic threats: “It is more important than ever that we speak out, based on evidence. It is time to go beyond just research and publishing, and to go directly to the citizens and policymakers.”

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Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood
by Climate Central, agencies
Oct. 2019
More than three times more people are at risk from rising sea levels than previously believed, new research reveals.
Land that is currently home to 300 million people will flood at least once a year by 2050 unless carbon emissions are cut significantly and coastal defences strengthened, says the study, published in Nature Communications. This is far above the previous estimate of 80 million.
The upward revision is based on a more sophisticated assessment of the topography of coastlines around the world. Previous models used satellite data that overestimated the altitude of land due to tall buildings and trees. The new study used artificial intelligence to compensate for such misreadings.
Researchers said the magnitude of difference from the previous Nasa study came as a shock. “These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines and entire global regions within our lifetimes,” said Scott Kulp, the lead author of the study and a senior scientist at Climate Central.
“As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much and how long coastal defences can protect them.”
The biggest change in estimates was in Asia, which is home to the majority of the world’s population. The numbers at risk of an annual flood by 2050 increased more than eightfold in Bangladesh, sevenfold in India, twelvefold in Thailand and threefold in China.
The threat is already being felt in Indonesia, where the government recently announced plans to move the capital city from Jakarta, which is subsiding and increasingly vulnerable to flooding. The new figures show 23 million people are at risk in Indonesia, up from the previous estimate of 5 million.
Benjamin Strauss, Climate Central’s chief scientist, said more countries may need to follow Indonesia’s lead unless sea defences were strengthened or carbon emissions were cut. “An incredible, disproportionate amount of human development is on flat, low-lying land near the sea. We are really set up to suffer,” he said.
The authors say the calculations could still underestimate the dangers because they are based on standard projections of sea level rise in a scenario known as RCP2.6, which assumes emissions cuts in line with the promises made under the Paris agreement. Countries are currently not on course to meet these pledges.
In a worst-case scenario with greater instability of the Antarctic ice sheet, as many as 640 million people could be threatened by 2100, the scientists say.
Strauss said a World Bank study using the old elevation data estimated damages of $1tn per year by mid-century, and this would need to be updated. More sophisticated topographical measurements would also be necessary, he said.
“The need for coastal defences and higher planning for higher seas is much greater than we thought if we are to avoid economic harm and instability,” said Strauss. “The silver lining to our research: although many more people are threatened than we thought, the benefits of action are greater.”
Nov. 2019
International effort to create marine sanctuaries around Antarctica has failed for the eighth year in a row. The project aims to counter climate change and protect fragile ecosystems.
The annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a group of 25 nations and the European Union, struggled to get support from China and Russia, and talks over marine sanctuaries broke down.
The two major world powers have consistently blocked the scheme since Australia and the EU first suggested it in 2010. They scaled the proposals back in 2017 in an effort to get China and Russia on board.
The Commission is made up of 24 countries plus the EU and is responsible for making decisions about the waters around Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole.
As each of the members has to agree before a new sanctuary can be designated, to protect against overfishing and pollution for example, a small minority of members can impede progress.
"With a growing loss of biodiversity and threats from climate change, it''s disheartening that CCAMLR has failed to protect east Antarctic waters for the eighth consecutive year," said Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
"Scientists have been clear that marine protection areas are needed to make a warming and acidifying ocean more resilient," she added.
The marine parks would have covered around 3 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles). The area is home to penguins, seals, toothfish and whales, among others.
The marine parks were "the subject of much discussion" at the talks, but no agreements were made. Officials said that they will make the proposals again next year.
Scientists said the sanctuary is important in terms of tackling climate change as the Antarctic absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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