A letter published in the journal BioScience on Monday warns of a grave global ecological crisis in progress, CNN reported Wednesday. The “warning to humanity” follows up on a similar letter published in 1992. The new “second notice” is signed by 16,000 scientists from 184 nations, and cautions that “human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.”
Led by William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University, and colleagues, the letter calls on the public to push for fundamental changes in human behavior to avoid “substantial and irreversible” damage to the biosphere on which we depend.
According to Ripple:
“This is not about some natural phenomenon that is removed from humans. If we don’t have a healthy biosphere, as it is called, if we continue to have major environmental problems and climate change problems, then this goes directly to the welfare of humans. People need to understand that we are trying to save ourselves from catastrophic huge misery.”
The scientists say that with few exceptions, the outlook for humanity has worsened since the first warning twenty-five years ago. The 1992 warning, published in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as English, cautioned that humanity needed to reduce fossil fuel use, preserve remaining forests, limit population growth, and boost food production.
“On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response,” according to the new letter.
Overall, the letter says that humanity has failed to properly address the issues raised in the first warning, particularly citing “the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change…from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption.”
They also cite a new mass extinction event, with many of the world’s species projected to be extinct, or nearly extinct, by 2100. The letter also includes data showing a 75 percent increase in ocean dead zones, where marine life cannot live due to a lack of oxygen, since the first letter in 1992. Often, these dead zones are the result of pollution. The scientists also discuss overfishing, threats to fresh water supply, and population increases.
However, the letter praises the successful reduction of the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, as evidence that a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is also possible. Progress on reducing hunger and slowing deforestation also indicate that society is capable of similar changes, according to the scientists.