Humans are putting the planet under great stress as indicated by the world’s vital signs. The news today is that life on Earth is under siege from humans according to scientists and as reported in The Independent newspaper.
We know about the record temperatures such as in September. These are records which are the highest ever recorded. We know about the wildfires ripping through Canada and other countries and in the state of California for instance. We know about the devastating floods and fires in Australia.
When forest fires rage across hundreds of thousands of hectares in the wild in California or Canada, it adds to the degradation of the world’s forests and adds to global warming massively. It is self-perpetuating. It is estimated that the wildfires in Canada released one gigaton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is about double Canada’s total 2021 greenhouse gas emissions.
Thirty-five vital signs about planet Earth exist, 20 of which are being pushed to record extremes according to an international team of scientists who declared a climate emergency in 2019.
The vital signs include the continued accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and other greenhouse gases e.g., methane. Then we have the loss of sea ice and glaciers. The sea ice in the Antarctica, for instance, is melting and it is said that the Antarctica and the Arctic both help to cool the planet because they reflect sunlight back away from the planet. When the ice melts the ground and the waters revealed are much darker and they absorb heat. Once again, we have a self-perpetuating process. The more global warming there is, the more global warming we have.
The glaciers in the Himalayas provide water to many countries south of the Himalayas. These glaciers are disappearing rapidly. Disaster awaits for millions of people and animals.
A disturbing aspect of this report is that they regard a breakdown in world society as feasible and “dangerously unexplored”. They are saying is that when global warming reaches a certain level, there will be huge disruption to human society across the globe.
Dr. Christopher Wolf, a researcher with Terrestrial Ecosystems said: “The frequency and severity of those disasters [caused by climate change] might be outpacing rising temperatures. By the end of the 21st century, as many as 3-6 billion people may find themselves outside the Earth’s livable regions meaning they will be encountering severe heat, limited food availability and elevated mortality rates.”
They found that there has been an increase in fossil fuel subsidies after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The subsidies more or less doubled between 2021 and 2022 from $531 billion to just over $1 trillion.
In 2023, on 38 days, the global average temperature was more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. And in July 2023, the world experienced the highest surface temperature in the last a hundred thousand years.
Of course, humans will suffer tremendously but, in line with the objectives of this website, so will animals. They already are suffering. The recent wildfires in Australia killed more than a billion animals. That is just a taster of what is to come. And deforestation continues at a rapid pace.
Dr. Wolf added that, “Without actions that address the root problem of humanity taking more from the Earth than it can safely give, we’re on our way to the potential collapse of natural and socioeconomic systems and a world with unbearable heat and shortages of food and fresh water.”
The scientists wants an immediate stop to the pressure applied by humans to the Earth’s life-support systems. There should be a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. In addition, there should be a switch to plant-based diets and a great increase in forest protection. They want the elimination of coal to produce energy and fossil fuel non-proliferation treaties. India and China still rely heavily on coal for instance. They are not doing anywhere near enough to curb global warming. They do this, in my view, to seek an economic advantage over the rest of the world but they are playing roulette with the world’s survival.