Six Critical Steps to Halt The Climate Crisis
The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected. We have entered the sixth mass extinction event. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity. With few exceptions, we are largely failing to address this predicament. Additionally, we cannot go back to status quo post-pandemic. We must flatten both curves. This must signal the end of limitless growth economy. The increasing severity of the climatological crisis and the need for action that goes beyond election cycles and business as usual is now very clear. Things cannot go on this way any longer. Despite the outcomes, humanity has a moral obligation to act now.
To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live, in ways that improve the vital signs summarized by our graphs. Economic and population growth are among the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion; therefore, we need bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies. We suggest six critical and interrelated steps (in no particular order) that governments, businesses, and the rest of humanity can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change.— Scientists’ Warning to Humanity
The Six Steps
Scientists Warning in cooperation with the Alliance of World Scientists present six critical and interrelated steps to lessen the effects of climate change that governments, organizations, policy makers and beyond can take to mitigate the worst outcomes of the climate crisis defined by the IPCC. These solutions are intended to address the corresponding legacy Scientists’ Warnings.
- Energy. Implement massive conservation practices; transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon renewables including solar and wind power; eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and impose carbon fees that are high enough to curtail the use of fossil fuels.
- Short-lived pollutants. Swiftly cut emissions of methane, soot, hydrofluorocarbons and other short-lived climate pollutants. Doing so has the potential to reduce the short-term warming trend by more than 50% over the next few decades.
- Nature. Restore and protect ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, peatlands, wetlands and mangroves, and allow a larger share of these ecosystems to reach their ecological potential for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas.
- Food. Eat more plants and consume fewer animal products. This dietary shift would significantly reduce emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases and free up agricultural lands for growing human food rather than livestock feed. Reducing food waste is also critical – the scientists say at least one-third of all food produced ends up as garbage.
- Economy. Convert the economy to one that is carbon free to address human dependence on the biosphere and shift goals away from the growth of gross domestic product at any cost. Curb exploitation of ecosystems for profit to maintain long-term biosphere sustainability.
- Population. This topic is being updated as the science is progressing. The newest science is covering much more complexity than earlier arguments about population that presented in the original Six Steps over a decade ago. Katherine Hayoe is just one climate scientist who is presenting the new analysis. Population is a factor in ecological impacts, but it is not a primary driver of climate change according to the latest science — and there is a strong and urgent need to frame this argument accurately because of the tendency to blame the most vulnerable populations. More discussion on this here.
Further, A short video discussion by the AWS thought leaders on the Six Steps is now available (see below).
“The climate emergency is here and accelerating more rapidly than most scientists anticipated,” Wolf said. “People are frightened – an illustration of that is the more than 1,800 climate emergency declarations issued around the world, by jurisdictions encompassing more than 820 million people.” – Second Scientists Warning: The Climate Emergency: 2020 in Review at Scientific American.
Mitigating and adapting to climate change entails transformations in the ways we govern, manage, feed, and fulfill material and energy requirements. We are encouraged by a recent global surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. The Pope issued an encyclical on climate change. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change. The world’s scientists are urging widespread use of the planetary vital signs and anticipate that graphical indicators will better allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities to alleviate climate change.
The good news is that such transformative change, with social and ecological justice, promises greater human well being in the long-run than ‘business as usual’. We believe that prospects will be greatest if policy makers and the rest of humanity promptly respond to our warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home. We must ensure that a post-pandemic world does not go back to the status quo, but rather implements degrowth strategies.
The full paper is free to read here.
Additional papers from AWS can be found here.
The Six Steps were developed by William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, and William R. Moomaw. These steps are critical and interrelated. These steps are intended to advise our policy makers and to mobilize our entire society to act on the climate crisis and sixth mass extinction event now underway at a high level.