15,000 scientists just issued a 'warning to humanity'
Scientists have always warned us that the apocalypse would arrive if we carry on the way we were going: "It's coming", they told us, their eyes fraught with fear and panic, the pressing evidence clenched tightly in their sweaty hands. In response, most of us smiled, nodded and turned back to our smartphones. The glaciers could have thawed around us and the rising sea levels could have swept us away in one fell swoop, but as long as we caught Kylie Jenner's latest Insta story, we were content to stay where we were.
But it might just be time to listen up, because 15,000 scientists have come together to issue a dramatic warning to humanity, stating that if Homo Sapiens don't get their act together fast then it will lead to "vast human misery". And it appears this time, it's not a drill.
In a letter to all humankind, 15,000 scientists from 184 countries claimed that humans had "unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century".
Technically, the drastic caution is the second injunction to come from anxious climate change experts around the world. Posted online, the message updates an original Warning from the Union of Concerned Scientists which collected around 1,700 signatories and was delivered in 1992. Written a quarter of a century ago, the letter called our attention to the runaway consumption of precious resources by an exploding population, something that scientists claim remains the biggest danger facing humankind now.
The subsequent letter takes a look at the notifications given all of those years ago and assesses whether people residing on planet Earth have done enough about them. Surprise, surprise, it's a big fat fail. Although we have become used to dire warnings about global warming and climate change, the scientists also give us some shameful statistics that exemplifies our apathetic attitude towards these important issues.
Among other issues, they pointed out that in the past 25 years the amount of fresh water available per head of population worldwide has reduced by 26 per cent and the number of ocean 'dead zones' - places where few things can successfully live because of pollution and oxygen starvation - has increased by 75 per cent. In addition, nearly 300 million acres of forest have been lost, mostly to make way for agricultural land - and the human population has risen by 35 per cent, exploding by 2.1 billion, from 5.5 billion to 7.6 billion.
Meanwhile, in the same time period, the number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish in the world has fallen by 29 per cent. The experts, who used data from governments, charities and individual researchers also brought to our attention the fact that, since the initial letter was first signed, global average temperatures have risen by over half a degree Celsius and CO2 emissions have increased by 62 percent.
If you've been lost in the sea of figures thrown your way, basically the overriding message is this: If we keep on going on at the rate we are currently, doomsday is on our doorsteps. Well, perhaps not so much ours, but certainly our children's, our children's children's and any further generations. In one section of the foreboding letter, experts tell us that we have put our future in jeopardy, stating:
"We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats. By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivise renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere."
However, there is a way to stop our descendants from cursing our names. Yep, you guessed it. By making some big changes. Professor William Ripple at Oregon State University said: "Some people might be tempted to dismiss this evidence and think we are just being alarmist. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path. We are hoping that our paper will ignite a wide-spread public debate about the global environment and climate."
So, will this catastrophic caution actually create some sort of discussion about the dark path we seem to be heading down? A Yale study recently claimed that six out of ten Americans are worried about climate change, while 20 per cent were "very worried", so the issue is clearly prevalent in society. But then again, you do have the other four out of ten Americans who don't see the issue, along with the president who doesn't believe in climate change at all...
We can only hope that the 13,300 additional scientists who signed the second warning letter will spark a larger concern and that everyone will begin playing their part in avoiding the incoming apocalypse. Maybe eventually, we will all eat fewer beef burgers, consume less energy and stick to having only one child. Maybe we will save the world. Either that, or we'll all look up from our smartphones after reading this article and forget all about it.