Scientists Warn of ‘Unprecedented Surge in Climate-Related Disasters’

In this Aug. 16, 2019, photo, a boat navigates at night next to a large iceberg in eastern Greenland. Summer 2019 is hitting Greenland hard with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. Scientists estimate that by the end of the summer, about 440 billion tons (400 billion metric tons) of ice, …
AP Photo/Felipe Dana

Two Oregon State University professors have doubled down in declaring a worldwide “climate emergency” and warning of “untold suffering” if fossil fuels are not eliminated.

An article published Wednesday in the online journal BioScience asserts that there is “mounting evidence that we are nearing or have already crossed tipping points associated with critical parts of the Earth system, including the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, warm-water coral reefs, and the Amazon rainforest.”

The article’s three principal authors are William J. Ripple and Christopher Wolf of Oregon State’s Department of Forest Ecosystems & Society and Thomas M. Newsome of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney.

These same authors published a similar article 20 months ago promising “untold human suffering” without deep and lasting shifts in human behavior and now lament that their warning went unheeded, meeting instead with “unrelenting business as usual.”

The trio is back to decrying “an unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters since 2019, including devastating flooding in South America and Southeast Asia, record shattering heat waves and wildfires in Australia and the Western United States, an extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season, and devastating cyclones in Africa, South Asia, and the West Pacific.”

Curiously, as the first piece of evidence of impending climate disaster, the authors cite growing “world ruminant livestock numbers,” which have “soared past 4 billion.” Future declines in meat consumption and production “will probably not happen until there is a general shift to plant-based diets or increases in the use of meat analogs,” they add.

In the second place, the authors point to an increased annual loss rate in the Brazilian Amazon forest likely due to “weakening deforestation enforcement triggering a sharp spike in illegal land clearing for cattle and soy farming” as well as forest degradation “due to fires, drought, logging, and fragmentation.”

Attentive readers will notice that neither of these first two “trends in planetary vital signs” is in any way the result of global warming.

As a solution to the “climate crisis,” the authors predictably propose radical modifications of human behavior, including “eliminating fossil fuels and shifting to renewables,” “switching to mostly plant-based diets,” “moving from indefinite GDP growth and overconsumption by the wealthy to ecological economics and a circular economy, in which prices reflect the full environmental costs of goods and services,” and “stabilizing and gradually reducing the population.”

On the basis of the trends they identify as “planetary vital signs,” the authors reaffirm the existence of a “climate emergency” and “call for transformative change, which is needed now more than ever to protect life on Earth and remain within as many planetary boundaries as possible.”


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