New York (IANS) The Earth’s vital signs have worsened beyond anything humans have yet seen, to the point that life on the planet is imperilled, according to a global report published on Tuesday, co-signed by more than 15,000 scientists in 161 countries.
Published in BioScience, “The 2023 State of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory” notes that 20 of 35 planetary vital signs that “convey the effects of human activities on greenhouse gas emissions and the consequent impacts on climate, our environment, and society”.
These include human population; ruminant livestock population; per capita meat production; oil, gas, and CO2 emissions; atmospheric methane, nitrous oxide; ocean acidification, heat, among others.
“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 freshwater,” said one of the lead author William Ripple, Professor in the Oregon State University’s College of Forestry.
The authors share new data illustrating that many climate-related records were broken by “enormous margins” in 2023, particularly those relating to ocean temperatures and sea ice.
They also note an extraordinary Canadian wildfire season that produced unprecedented carbon dioxide emissions.
“Life on our planet is clearly under siege,” Ripple said. “The statistical trends show deeply alarming patterns of climate-related variables and disasters. We also found little progress to report as far as humanity combating climate change.”
The report shows that fossil fuel subsidies roughly doubled between 2021 and 2022, from $531 billion to just over $1 trillion. In 2023, there have been 38 days so far with global average temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Until this year, such days were a rarity, the authors said.
The highest average Earth surface temperature ever recorded came this past July, and there’s reason to believe it was the highest surface temperature the planet has seen in the last 100,000 years. “By the end of the 21st century, as many as 3 to 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,” said another lead author Christopher Wolf, a scientist with Corvallis-based Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Associates.
The authors recommend phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, transitioning toward plant-based diets, scaling up forest protection efforts and adopting international coal elimination and fossil fuel non-proliferation treaties.