Scientists Warn of Global Dangers
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
GR–Ode to concerned scientists: They see the danger, they blow the horns and clang the bells, and they wait. But the ramparts remain empty. They turn to their family and friends, but dreamlike their voices are too soft and none respond.
“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.
“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”
“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”
“This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told twenty-five years earlier. Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: in 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.” –Jeremy Lent (What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?).
In recent posts, I described the warnings of impending disaster. I didn’t expect to have an impact, and I wasn’t wrong. As Jeremy Lint points out in the article above, the media avoidance of unappetizing topics is too complete. And of course, our leaders in power avoid the subject in their subservience to wealth. My first hint that good advice for avoiding collapse would be futile was the minimal response to my discovery of the simple and inexpensive means for everyone to switch their homes from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy. Like Pangloss, I’ve remained hopeful. But I read that book, and now I’ve turned to a more practical concern; the post-anthropocene survivors, the weeds, have absorbed my attention. Today’s weed is Shepherdspurse, a foreign but familiar little mustard that feeds butterflies and yields medicines for us humans.
GR: This is the 25-year update of the warning scientists gave in 1992.
“More than 15,000 scientists have signed a chilling article titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” urging global leaders to save the planet from environmental catastrophe.
“The plea, published Monday in the international journal BioScience, is likely the largest-ever formal support by scientists for a journal article with 15,372 total signatories, Motherboard noted. The scientists represent 184 countries and have a range of scientific backgrounds. Prominent signatories include Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson and James Hansen.
“The “Second Notice”—an update to the original version published 25 years ago by the Union of Concerned Scientists and signed by 1,700 scientists then—underscores the lack of progress from the original document.
“The first notice started with this statement: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” It described trends such as the growing hole in the ozone layer, pollution and depletion of freshwater sources, overfishing, deforestation, plummeting wildlife populations, as well as unsustainable rises in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures and human population levels.
“Unfortunately, the authors of the current article said that humanity has failed to progress on most of the measures.
“They ominously warned, “time is running out.”
“William J. Ripple, lead author of the current article and a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University, told the Associated Press he was stunned by the level of support for the manuscript.
“I initially sent it out to 40 of my colleagues,” he explained. “After 24 hours there were 600 scientists who signed it. Within two days, there were 1,200. There were so many people signing that our website crashed a couple of times.”
“According to the AP, the researchers document a number of alarming trends from 1992 to 2016, such as a 28.9 percent reduction of vertebrate wildlife, a 62.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions, a 167.6 percent rise in global average annual temperature change and a 35.5 percent increase in the global population (about 2 billion people).” –Lorraine Chow (More: https://www.ecowatch.com/scientists-environmental-warning-2509347840.html.)
GR: Climate-change droughts are killing trees and shrubs in dry lands around the world. For many years, forest ecologists argued that some vegetation requires periodic fires to stay healthy. The fires clear out underbrush and open areas where trees are tightly packed.
As climate change advances, the ‘let it burn’ philosophy has taken on a new meaning. Across the western U. S. and other drying regions, trees are dying. Human-caused climate change with fire as its agent, is sweeping away the forests and shrublands. Fire-prone weeds are taking their place. Weedlands, sometimes called ‘annual grasslands’ have lower biodiversity, productivity, and ability to absorb heavy rains. The process is known as desertification. Today, firefighters have little choice but to ‘let it burn,’ Perhaps they are unconsciously aware that the magnificent conifer forests of the world will never return.
“Since 2010, more than one hundred million trees have died in California. Falling trees and limbs are not the only hazard. These dead trees could provide the fuel to turn a normal wildfire into an inferno.
“Fire is as much a part of California as mudslides and winter snowpack.
“Van Mantgem: “The Sierras are always going to burn. So we’re never going to be able to exclude fire – and I don’t think we’d want to exclude fire – it’s a fire-adapted system.”
“That’s Phil Van Mantgem, with the U.S.G.S. Western Ecological Research Center. He says that although fire is a natural part of the system, the long-term drought has made it more likely that wildfires will burn out of control. But there’s no easy solution.” –Bruce Lieberman (Dead trees stoke wildfire fears » Yale Climate Connections)
Block Trump. Declare World War on Global Warming and Other Human Impacts on Nature
Scientists report that growth and spread of humanity together with rising global temperature are causing declining biodiversity, rising seas, growing storms, intensifying drought, spreading disease, and much more. The reports, made by observers all over the world, are like the thunder ahead of a storm that threatens the safety of our families, our friends, our civilization, and all life on our planet. We know it’s coming. Without a massive effort by the people of the world, the storm will grow until terrible destruction ruins our planet. We and all other life may be lost.
Donald Trump’s pre-inauguration statements and cabinet choices make it clear that he will add to global warming and every other negative human impact on Earth.
The Earth continues turning, but if we don’t exert some self-discipline there might one day be no minds that know or eyes that see.
Global warming and human population growth are the destructors. They are greater even than fear, hate, and desire;
Together, they threaten humanity and all life on Earth.
Polls show that sixty-four percent of Americans believe global warming is occurring. The number is growing. When the first distant rumbles occurred, we said, “Ah, it might help if we quit burning so much coal, oil, and gas.” Later we said, “Hmm, maybe we need to quit clearing so much land for cities and farms.” And as the danger loomed, we added to the list of things we should do. But we haven’t done much, and the danger has arrived. We are even beginning to realize that the coming storm might be self-sustaining. Global warming might have passed the point at which we can stop it. Seas and soils are warming and releasing their stores of carbon, and the great glaciers are melting and exposing open water. Warming might continue even if we halt all burning and building.
Global Warming is at the brink and looking down the slip face of runaway self-sustaining increase beyond our control. The research shows that global warming is already rotting organic matter stored in the tundra and on the ocean floor. Global warming is increasing evaporation and humidity. Global warming is causing soil microbes to release carbon. Methane (CH4), water vapor (H2O), and soil carbon (C in various forms) are joining carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning and are all working together to trap more of the incoming solar energy. The buildup of these gases appears to have taken us past the point at which we can prevent the great storms, droughts, and rising seas. By adding CH4 and H2O to CO2, we are unleashing an exponential spiral that will end human civilization in decades, not centuries. And not far beyond that, end all life on Earth.
Even if there was no greenhouse gas and global warming, the spreading human population will eventually wipe out most life on Earth. Already, more than half of all animals are gone, replaced by humans. Family planning, like cutting greenhouse gas, has become an emergency requirement for sustaining life on Earth.
I can’t quite bring myself to believe that our civilization will end within decades. I still believe that we could stop global warming if we make a total effort.
Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say they are worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming. The U. S. adult population totals 242+ million (over age 18). Sixty-four percent equals 154+ million.
For those with concern for the future of society and their children, I find it intolerable to say that we must wait and see what happens. Instead, I have a proposal for action:
Leadership in the U. S. and most other nations is not responding to the growing human impact and the global warming threat. I propose that we declare a citizens’ war on the behaviors causing the impacts and threats. We can begin by forcing our elected leaders and our business leaders to organize and lead the war on warming and population growth. We need their help to convert the world’s industries, economies, and societies to the needed total effort to save Earth and us.
Other thinkers are saying the same thing. Here’s Michael Moore’s action plan:
Our local action group is forming now and will try to make visits to some of our representatives next week.
GR: This CNN Photo/Video/Data essay has high-quality images and interviews. Recommended.
“Frogs, coral, elephants — all are on the brink. Three quarters of species could disappear. Why is this happening? CNN explores an unprecedented global crisis.” –CNN (Continue: The extinction crisis is far worse than you think)
GR: Climate change will destroy human civilization as it delivers the final blow to Earth’s biosphere. Already we have lost half our wild plant and animal life and extinction rates are rising. In earlier mass extinctions, the planet lost near ninety percent of its species. This time could be worse. With continued human population growth, development, environmental destruction, and global warming, our species will join all the others and undergo massive turmoil and decline as our resource, the Earth’s biosphere declines. Though some have forgotten it, our species is dependent on a steady, healthy biosphere.
“Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale,” according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”.
“The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.
“Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required.” –Danian Carrington (More: Climate Change Will Stir ‘Unimaginable’ Refugee Crisis | Climate Central).
GR: The potential for runaway global warming is growing. This is an important article that we shouldn’t ignored. Of course, one might argue that when you are chained across the railroad tracks, you might as well ignore the approaching train. If that’s where we are, perhaps its time for the Champaign.
“In a massive new study published Wednesday in the influential journal Nature, no less than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades.
“That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon due to the plants and roots that have grown and died in them, in many cases over vast time periods (plants pull in carbon from the air through photosynthesis and use it to fuel their growth). It has long been feared that as warming increases, the microorganisms living in these soils would respond by very naturally upping their rate of respiration, a process that in turn releases carbon dioxide or methane, leading greenhouse gases.
“It’s this concern that the new study validates. “Our analysis provides empirical support for the long-held concern that rising temperatures stimulate the loss of soil C to the atmosphere, driving a positive land C–climate feedback that could accelerate planetary warming over the twenty-first century,” the paper reports.
“This, in turn, may mean that even humans’ best efforts to cut their emissions could fall short, simply because there’s another source of emissions all around us. The very Earth itself.” –Chris Mooney (please continue reading: Scientists have long feared this ‘feedback’ to the climate system. Now they say it’s happening – The Washington Post)
GR: Humans cause desertification directly as livestock grazing, farming, and logging remove plants and expose soil to erosion. They also cause desertification indirectly by burning fossil fuel, increasing global temperature, and increasing droughts and storms. Of course, there are also the disturbing impacts of our toxic wastes and our footprints on the land. And there’s more. Folks, I think we’ve covered all the bases.
(Monster thunderstorm explodes over Northwestern Africa last night, hurling a huge dust storm or Haboob northward toward Europe. Image source: The Met Office.)
Robertscribbler.–“An expansion of the Sahara Desert northward into Europe. A scenario that has long been a concern raised by scientists modeling potential extreme weather and climate scenarios related to human-caused climate change. And this week, it appears that Southern and Eastern Europe are going to get a taste of Sahara Desert-type weather conditions. It’s just unfolding a bit more dramatically than scientists at first anticipated.
“Last night, a massive thunderstorm large enough to cover the England, Scotland and Ireland combined blew up over western Africa. The storm, larger than most hurricanes, drew in strong, hot winds from North Africa and the Sahara Desert. These winds bore upon them a great load of dust. Dust which the strong outflow of the storm then turned northward along a frontal boundary draped across the Mediterranean toward Europe.” Continue reading: Monster African Thunderstorm Hurls Enormous Haboob at Europe, 100 + Degree (F) Heat to Follow | robertscribbler
Unaware of the consequences of its behavior, the growing human population is erasing sixty-five million of years of biodiversity recovery since the massive extinction that eliminated dinosaurs and most other species. This is without doubt the greatest issue of our time, perhaps of all time. In the article below, points out that biodiversity is not even being mentioned by our current presidential candidates.
Global warming, deforestation, desertification, environmental pollution, and ocean acidification are familiar labels for human-caused destruction of biodiversity and stability of Earth ecosystems. They are all connected to the attempt by our billions of people to satisfy their desires for food, reproduction, safety, and convenience. Allowed uncontrolled expansion, any one of them can achieve planet-wide destruction of biodiversity. Consider that even if this year’s great climate-change treaty achieves a sudden shift to safe energy and stops global warming, it will not save life on Earth. No single-issue approach can.
(The following article by Quentin Wheeler is reproduced with permission from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. I would like to add that our ‘moon-shot’ inventory should include ecosystems as well as species.)
“It’s unlikely that presidential candidates will ever utter the word “biodiversity” while campaigning this year.
“Yet among emerging environmental challenges, none has fewer facts or more enduring threats than the large-scale loss of biodiversity. That’s why we need a visionary investment in fundamental exploration to create knowledge and options.
“And our elected representatives should lead vigorous discussions about what we can and should do about it. From Jefferson to Kennedy, from the Northwest Territory to the depths of space, presidents of vision have opened new frontiers to exploration.
“Serious environmental problems are a bipartisan challenge that deserves to be in every presidential platform. While scientific questions should be firewalled from politics, what we do with scientific knowledge should not. The best solutions should emerge from the rough and tumble of public debate.
“Biodiversity belongs in our public discussion because we have so much to learn from the Earth’s species – both what it means to be human and the knowledge encapsulated in nature – as we plot our future in a time of great change.”
“At the estimated current rate of species extinction, it is projected that 70 percent of all the kinds of animals and plants will disappear in about 300 years.
“This is not the first time that earth has weathered such a mass extinction event. There have been five previously, the most recent occurring 65 million years ago, marked by the disappearance of the great dinosaurs.
“In each case, evolutionary processes have restored high levels of species diversity, but this should give us little comfort. Biodiversity recovery takes place over tens of millions of years. And in the meanwhile, there can be enormously chaotic consequences for ecosystems.
“Our knowledge of the species with which we share planet Earth is dangerously limited, meaning that we make decisions and policies in near complete ignorance of basic facts. Our best guess is that there are 10 million living species, more or less, excluding the single-celled bacteria and Archaea.
“Of these, fewer than two million are known to science. And of documented species, most are known by little more than a few diagnostic features and a name. While the rate of species extinction has greatly increased, the pace at which we are exploring species has not.
“In one of the original “big science” ideas, the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus set out in the mid-18th century to complete a global inventory of all the kinds of animals and plants. That inventory continues today, but at an unacceptably slow pace. We discover about 18,000 species each year, a rate unchanged since the 1940s in spite of technological advances.
“This need not be so. Given appropriate technical support and coordinated teamwork, it has been estimated that 10 million species could be described or redescribed in greater detail in no more than 50 years.
“As global environments are stressed, we need reliable knowledge of species diversity upon which to detect and measure changes. Ironically, we have mapped the rocky surface of Mars in greater detail than the living biosphere of our own planet.
“Unless we know what species exist and where, how are we to recognize invasive species, measure rates of extinction or even know whether our conservation strategies are working or not? How are we to understand or restore complex ecosystems when we are ignorant of the majority of their functioning parts? And how much are we willing to risk losing by not undertaking a comprehensive biodiversity moon shot?”
“Three major benefits would accrue from a NASA-scale mission to explore the biosphere.
“First would be baseline documentation of the species that exist early in the 21st century, including how they assemble into complex networks in ecosystems. Such baseline data would be transformative for ecology, conservation biology, and resource management, and establish a detailed point of comparison for whatever changes come in the future.
“Second is unleashing the full potential of biomimicry. For 3.8 billion years natural selection has maintained favorable adaptations and weeded out unworkable ones. Among the millions of such adaptations, engineers and innovators can find inspiration for entirely new designs, materials, products and processes.
“The extent to which we succeed creating a truly sustainable future – from renewable energy to degradable materials to cities that function like efficient ecosystems – may well depend on how much knowledge we gather from other species, including those about to go extinct.
“Last, but not least, is knowledge of our origins. Anthropologists continue to fill gaps in our knowledge of the emergence of modern humans, but that is only the most recent chapter in our story. Every attribute that we think of as uniquely human was modified from characteristics of earlier mammals. And features supposedly unique to mammals were similarly modified from even earlier ancestors and so forth, all the way back to the first single-celled species from which the diversity of life around us evolved.
“We can no more understand what it is to be human without exploring this whole history than we could account for why Earth is as it is in the absence of knowledge of the universe.
“We stand a much better chance of slowing the rate of extinction and reducing the percentage of species ultimately lost if we complete a planetary species inventory. And by preserving evidence and knowledge of those species that are lost, we can continue to learn from them.
“New tools, such as those from information science and molecular genetics, can help speed species exploration, but are most powerful when used in combination with detailed descriptive studies of species that reveal their evolutionary novelties.
“E.O. Wilson’s new book, “Half Earth,” proposes that half our planet be reserved for all the other species. His suggestion has unassailable common sense and is perhaps the most workable solution holding promise for millions of other species.
“If we accelerate species exploration, we can add value to “their” half of the world by better understanding and appreciating its residents while finding nature-inspired solutions to sustainably meet our needs in the confines of our half.
“The sooner we act, the greater our chances to avoid a sixth extinction event and preserve nature’s vast library of clues to better ways to meet human needs in an era of rapid global environmental change.”