Thousands of scientists sign doomsday warning to humanity: Earth faces “mutilation and misery” if we don’t change

Humanity is failing to take the steps needed to prevent our planet from environmental catastrophe, and the bulk of threats we face have actually gotten far worse over the past few decades.

Thousands of scientists sign doomsday warning to humanity: Earth faces “mutilation and misery” if we don’t change

That’s according to a new call-to-action, signed by 15,000 scientists across 184 countries. They argue that – aside from rapid decline in ozone-depleting substances – humans have not yet got their act together over issues that could leave our planet “irretrievably mutilated”.

25 years ago, the majority of living Nobel laureates published the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. It argued that human impact on Earth will likely lead to “vast human misery”. Today’s missive, titled ‘A Second Notice’ and published in BioScience, uses time-series data to evaluate our response to the threats outlined in 1992. The short version: it’s not looking good.

“Humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere,” the authors of the paper report. They claim the overwhelming majority of the outlined threats are still in place and “alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse”.

Among the 25-year global trends outlined in the report are: a loss of 300 million acres of forestland, a 26% reduction in the amount of fresh water available per capita, a collective 29% reduction in number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish, and a 75% increase in the number of ocean dead zones.

“Some people might be tempted to dismiss this evidence and think we are just being alarmist,” says William Ripple, lead author of the report and professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. “Scientists are in the business of analysing data and looking at the long-term consequences. Those who signed this second warning aren’t just raising a false alarm. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path.”

The paper has attracted a staggering amount of signatories. For comparison, the 1992 warning was issued by 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists. Discussion about the article is circulating on Twitter, under the #ScientistsWarningtoHumanity hashtag.

“It’s an overwhelming response we didn’t quite expect,” says Thomas Newsome, a co-author of the report and research fellow at Deakin University and The University of Sydney. “People just started sharing the letter; it was added to a few email lists and things just took off from there.”

While the outlook may seem bleak, the scientists note that the “rapid global decline in ozone-depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively”. The report outlines 13 areas that humanity could address to help make our life on earth sustainable.

A failure to heed this second warning, however, could lead to dire consequence. As the report makes clear: “Time is running out”.

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