More Than 15,000 Scientists Issue Another Dire 'Warning to Humanity'

Pam Wright
Published: November 14, 2017

An image of Earth captured on Jan. 4, 2015, from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP.

More than 15,000 scientists from around the world have joined together to issue a second warning to humanity on the state of the planet, marking the 25th anniversary of a preliminary warning issued in the '90s that called on humankind to "curtail environmental destruction."

The Alliance of World Scientists, an international group of scientists with no ties to governmental and non-governmental organizations or corporation released "World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: a second notice" on Monday in the journal Bioscience.

The letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, is a followup to the initial warning released in 1992 by the Union of Concerned Scientists and at least 1,700 other independent scientists, 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."

“If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know," scientists, including Union of Concerned Scientists co-founder Henry Kendall, wrote in 1992.

Concerns voiced in the' 90s included a decline in freshwater availability, unsustainable marine fisheries, ocean dead zones, climate change, population growth, declining biodiversity and the destruction of the protective ozone layer.

The scientists' second warning is no less dire and is, in fact, rather condemning.

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” the scientists note.  

The greatest threat to the planet today, according to the alliance, is global climate change. 

"Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agricultural production— particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption," they write. 

The only bright spot noted by the scientists since the release of the first warning is the decrease in the hole in the ozone layer that hovers over Antarctica, which is its smallest size since 1988. The hole has been slowly recovering thanks to a 1987 international ban on harmful chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals that were once used in refrigerants and aerosols.

“The rapid global decline in ozone-depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively,” the letter points out.

(MORE: Ozone Layer Hole Shrinks to Smallest Size Since 1988, Scientists Say)

The scientists suggest 13 strategies to help decrease humankind's negative impact on the planet, including the establishment of economic incentives to change patterns of consumption, a reduction of food waste and the development of green technologies.

The alliance notes that unless changes are made, "it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

Still, the scientists remain hopeful that those very changes can be made through commitment and unity. 

"It is important to continue this work to document challenges, as well as improved situations, and to develop clear, trackable, and practical solutions while communicating trends and needs to world leaders," the scientists conclude. "Working together while respecting the diversity of people and opinions and the need for social justice around the world, we can make great progress for the sake of humanity."

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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