By national science, technology and environment reporter Michael Slezak
Posted 29 minutes
More than 11,000 scientists around the world have signed a scientific paper declaring a climate emergency, backing protesters across the world demanding action.
- The 11,000 scientists who put their name to the paper say they have a “moral obligation” to humanity
- The scientists, from 153 countries, have backed governments across the world that made similar declarations
- The group of scientists say there needs to be greater emphasis on human activities that can change the climate such as fertility rate, air travel and meat production
The paper, published in the journal BioScience, declares the climate crisis “had arrived” and is “accelerating faster than most scientists expect”.
“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat,” the paper said.
The UK, Scotland and Ireland are among the countries that have declared a “climate change emergency”, along with more than 1,000 subnational jurisdictions, including many in Australia, such as the ACT, the City of Sydney and the City of Melbourne.
Last month, the Federal Government voted down an attempt to declare a climate emergency across the country, with the Morrison Government’s Emissions Reduction Minister, Angus Taylor, labelling it a “symbolic” gesture.
More than 400,000 Australians have signed a petition, now presented to Parliament, urging the Government to make the call.
Professor William Ripple, a
He said he hoped the paper and consensus statement would spur on more governments to make similar declarations.
Taking Earth’s ‘vital signs’
The paper, which was not peer-reviewed, includes signatures from scientists’ from 153 countries and calls for reporting on climate change to consider a wider range of indicators, beyond just global surface temperature.
It calls on a set of indicators to convey the effects of human activities on greenhouse gas emissions and the consequent impacts on climate, the environment and society.
The signatories were corralled by a group called The Alliance of World Scientists.
The scientists present a list of measures they call the Earth’s “vital signs”, which they say better represent climate change.
They include 15 measures of human activities that can change the climate — such as fertility rate, air travel and meat production — and 14 measures of the impacts of climate change, such as ocean acidity, ocean heat content and the number of extreme weather events.
“We think governments at their own country level should actually be reporting this data back to the public so that we can track progress over time,” he said.
“But also so the public can learn about how they might be able to make differences within their own lives to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
In response to the paper, Mr Taylor said in a statement the Government was taking “real and practical action to reduce our emissions while ensuring a strong and prosperous economy”.
But Dr Newsome said the declaration was based on analysis of 40 years of scientific data.
“From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency,” he said.
The paper also proposes a list of actions the alliance says would “lessen the worst effects of climate change”.
They include quickly transitioning to renewable energy, promptly reducing emissions of powerful, short-lived climate pollutants like methane; and moving the population towards a mostly plant-based diet.
The paper applauded “grassroots citizen movements”.
Professor Ripple said the paper was a form of what he described as “scientific advocacy”.
“We are basing our conclusions on science that is not really disputed,” he said. “The key here is that it’s evidence-based and science-based.”
The Alliance of World Scientists issued a similar warning in 2017 about broader threats to the global environment.
On its website, the group links to a range of resources, including the more radical movement, Extinction Rebellion.
Extinction Rebellion is a grass-roots, citizen-based movement, which uses civil disobedience in an attempt to “halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse”.
“I don’t think the Alliance [of World Scientists] is actively endorsing, discouraging or encouraging civil disobedience,” Dr Newsome said.
“Everyone has a right to peaceful protest. So I guess people are just looking for another way to get this message across, partly because governments haven’t been acting and responding in a way that is their duty.”