• Monday, Sep 27, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:58 am

Earth's 'vital signs' worsening as humanity's impact deepens

  • Published at 03:21 pm July 28th, 2021
US Wildfire Heatewave
Flames are seen on the side of highway after a bushfire broke out, near St George, Arizona on July 12, 2021 Reuters

Greenland and Antarctica both recently showed all-time low levels of ice mass, and glaciers are melting 31% faster than they did just 15 years ago

The global economy's business-as-usual approach to climate change has seen Earth's "vital signs" deteriorate to record levels, an influential group of scientists said on Wednesday, warning that several climate tipping points were now imminent.

The researchers, part of a group of more than 14,000 scientists who have signed on to an initiative declaring a worldwide climate emergency, said that governments had consistently failed to address the root cause of climate change: "the overexploitation of the Earth."

Since a similar assessment in 2019, they noted an "unprecedented surge" in climate-related disasters, including flooding in South America and Southeast Asia, record-shattering heatwaves and wildfires in Australia and the US, and devastating cyclones in Africa and South Asia. 

Of 31 "vital signs" -- key metrics of planetary health that include greenhouse gas emissions, glacier thickness, sea-ice extent and deforestation -- they found that 18 hit record highs or lows. 

For example, despite a dip in pollution linked to the pandemic, levels of atmospheric CO2 and methane hit all-time highs in 2021.

Greenland and Antarctica both recently showed all-time low levels of ice mass, and glaciers are melting 31% faster than they did just 15 years ago, the authors said. 

Both ocean heat and global sea levels set new records since 2019, and the annual loss rate of the Brazilian Amazon reached a 12-year high in 2020. 

Echoing previous research, they said that forest degradation linked to fire, drought and logging was causing parts of the Brazilian Amazon to now act as a source of carbon, rather than absorb the gas from the atmosphere. 

Livestock such as cows and sheep are now at record levels, numbering more than four billion and with a mass exceeding that of all humans and wild land mammals combined, they said.

Tim Lenton, director of the University of Exeter's Global Systems Institute and study co-author, said the recent record-breaking heatwave in the Western United States and Canada showed that the climate had already begun to "behave in shocking, unexpected ways."

'Address the root cause'

The researchers said there was "mounting evidence that we are nearing or have already crossed" a number of climate tipping points. 

These include melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which may now be irreversible on a centuries-long time scale, regardless of how or if humankind slashes its emissions.

They said increasing ocean deoxygenation and warming waters were threatening warm-water coral reefs, upon which half a billion people rely for food, income and storm protection. 

"Given these alarming developments, we need short, frequent, and easily accessible updates on the climate emergency," said the study, published in the journal BioScience. 

The authors echoed previous calls for transformative change in six areas: eliminating fossil fuels, slashing pollutants, restoring ecosystems, switching to plant-based diets, moving away from indefinite growth models, and stabilizing the human population. 

They also called for climate change education to be included in school core curriculums globally in order to raise awareness. In the immediate term, they proposed a trio of emergency responses to the climate emergency. 

These consisted of "a significant carbon price," a global phase-out and ban of fossil fuels, and the development of strategic climate reserves such as restoring and maintaining carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots.

52
Facebook 51
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail