‘Widespread misery’: 15,000 scientists issue dire warning for humanity’s future

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Over 15,000 scientists from 184 nations have co-signed a journal article pleading with humanity to embrace sustainability now before it is “too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

The article in BioScience,  “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” notes that 25 years ago, thousands of the world’s leading scientists warned humanity about the worsening problems of “ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine fishery collapses, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth.”

In that 1992 statement, the world’s top scientists, “hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

A quarter century later, more than 15,000 researchers — “the most scientists to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article” as the article itself notes — want the world to know things are getting worse and time is running out. “Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

Their chart tells the bleakest story:

Trends over time for environmental issues identified in the 1992 scientists’ warning to humanity. CREDIT: BioScience.

The authors do note some promising trends. For instance, “The rapid global decline in ozone-depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively. We have also made advancements in reducing extreme poverty and hunger.” In addition we’ve seen “the promising decline in the rate of deforestation in some regions, and the rapid growth in the renewable-energy sector.”

But all of those gains are in the process of being overwhelmed by our inaction on the other key trends. The scientists explain, “Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels, deforestation,and agricultural production” (especially from livestock farming). Also, humanity has “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.”

The bottom line is that “To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual.” Of course, the scientists note, this is the same warning scientists issued a quarter-century ago. Now, thanks to our dawdling, “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

It’s way past time for action, and on our current trajectory, there may well not be a third warning.