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'Climate emergency' with 'untold suffering' potential declared by 11,000 scientists

In the largest declaration of its kind, the scientists list six steps they say must be taken to avoid what they see as a threat to humanity.

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world issued a stark warning Tuesday that the Earth is facing a "climate emergency" that could lead to "untold suffering" unless steps are taken to quickly reverse the effects of climate change. The findings, published in the journal BioScience, also lists steps that can be taken to address the issue.

The paper is titled "World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency," and it's being called the first time such a large group of scientists has come together to declare a climate emergency. They also say the climate crisis is accelerating faster than previously expected and is more severe than anticipated, leading to a threat to humanity.

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"Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature's reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic 'hothouse Earth,' well beyond the control of humans. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable," the study reads.

They say they are encouraged that global concern has increased at the grassroots level and by governmental bodies, but stress that the climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption and that affluent countries are mostly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientists say bold and dramatic measures must be taken, and list these six steps to battle the climate emergency.

  • Quickly move from fossil fuels to low-carbon renewable energy and other, cleaner sources of energy. This includes eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels. Wealthier nations need to support poorer nations in this transition.
  • Reduce emissions of pollutants such as methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons.
  • Protect and restore Earth's ecosystems, and encourage reforestation where possible. The scientists say up to one-third of emissions reductions needed to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord by 2030 could be met this way.
  • Transition to mostly plant-based foods while reducing global consumption of animal products, especially livestock. The scientists point out that it will not only lower greenhouse gas emissions, but it can improve human health.
  • Economies need to switch away from a goal of GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence, focusing more on carbon-free solutions. Economic focus should be on sustaining ecosystems, prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality. 
  • Stabilize the world population, which the scientists say is increasing by 200,000 people per day. The scientists say, ideally, population needs to be gradually reduced in a way that still maintains "social integrity." This would include strengthening human rights and making family planning resources available to everyone.

Two of the lead scientists on the worldwide study are Bill Ripple and Christopher Wolf, ecologists at Oregon State University.

The study was released one day after the Trump administration announced it would begin the one-year process to leave the Paris Climate Agreement.

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