01 December 2017

Wake Up, World!

Welcome to Warren’s Notice. I’m going to guess that, 25 years ago, you missed the “World Scientists' Warning to Humanity.” I did, or at least, I don’t remember it.

The 1992 World Scientists’
Warning to Humanity was
organized by the Union of
Concerned Scientists.
The 1992 Warning was an appeal from more than 1700 of the world’s leading scientists, including most Nobel science laureates, for humans to stop inflicting harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and critical resources. If unchecked, they wrote, we may so alter the world that it will be unable to sustain life as we know it.

Led by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the short warning didn’t waste a lot of words in identifying areas that must be addressed across the spectrum of the environment--atmosphere, water resources, oceans, soil, forests, living species--and population. The scientists called, for example, for the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of air and water, halt deforestation, reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity and stabilize population.

Well, even if you and I weren’t paying attention 25 years ago, we’ve got another wake-up call: the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice." And this time, there are a lot more people calling. Led by scientists from Oregon State University and signed by nearly 15,400 scientists from 184 countries, the second warning picks up where the first warning left off.

Second Warning
Authors of the second warning used all available data to evaluate changes over time in the specific areas identified in the first warning: gases that deplete stratospheric ozone, freshwater resources, marine catch, ocean dead zones, forest acreage, vertebrate species abundance, carbon dioxide emissions, temperature change and both human and ruminant livestock population.

They found that, with the exception of one area--stabilizing stratospheric ozone, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in addressing the challenges. All other areas have gotten worse over the past 25 years.

Among areas of special concern are the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and the decline in species abundance. We have unleashed the sixth mass extinction event, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or committed to extinction by the end of this century.

Example trends from World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. Darker portion of graphs show trend after the first warning in 1992. (Graphs from academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/bix125/4605229)
Recommended Actions
Despite the success of lobbyists in delaying environmental progress, and in the face of the Trump administration’s actions, the authors of the second warning judge that with a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. They also urge that we re-examine and change our individual behaviors.

Among the many examples they offer of diverse steps humanity can take to transition to sustainability are:

- devising and promoting new green technologies and massively adopting renewable energy sources while phasing out subsidies to energy production through fossil fuels

- prioritizing…well-funded and well-managed reserves for a significant proportion of the world's terrestrial, marine, freshwater and aerial habitats
- halting the conversion of forests, grasslands and other native habitats
- restoring native plant communities at large scales, particularly forest landscapes
- developing and adopting adequate policy instruments to remedy defaunation, the poaching crisis, and the exploitation and trade of threatened species
- promoting dietary shifts toward mostly plant-based foods
- further reducing fertility rates by ensuring that women and men have access to education and voluntary family-planning services.

Wrap Up
In response to the support the second warning has generated, the authors have established an Alliance of World Scientists (see P.S.).

The main goal of this new assembly of scientists is to be a collective international voice of many scientists regarding global climate and environmental trends and how to turn accumulated knowledge into action.

Scientists of any discipline are invited to visit the Alliance website to read and endorse the 1000-word second warning. Also available on the website are the list of the original signatories as well as a running list of subsequent endorsers, which was approaching 3800 at this writing.

Thanks for stopping by.

1992 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html#.WgsMCTeQyUk
“World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” in BioScience journal: academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/bix125/4605229
Example articles on second warning:

Alliance of World Scientists website: scientists.forestry.oregonstate.edu/

Example articles on science and the environment under Trump administration:
CBS News report on status of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology: www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trumps-science-office-is-a-ghost-town/
TIME article on EPA under Pruitt: time.com/4998279/company-man-in-washington/
National Geographic list of how Trump is changing the environment: news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/