Earth’s ‘vital signs’ worsening due to climate change, scientists warn against human acts

A group of scientists on Wednesday said that the global economic-centric approach towards climate change has seen Earth’s “vital signs” deteriorate to record levels. Researchers, part of 14,000 group scientists, who have signed on to take an initiative declaring a worldwide climate emergency claimed that the governments failed to figure out the root cause of climatic change, i.e, “overexploitation of the Earth”. Out to 31 “vital signs”, greenhouse gas emissions, glacier thickness, sea-ice extent, and deforestation are key reasons behind this climatic change. The study also stated an example that levels of atmospheric CO2 and methane hit all-time highs in 2021, despite a dip in pollution due to the pandemic.

Similar research took place in 2019 and since then an “unprecedented surge” in climate-related disasters, including flooding in South America and Southeast Asia, record-smashing heatwaves and wildfires in Australia and the US, and devastating cyclones in Africa and South Asia. While in 2020, the annual loss rate of the Brazilian Amazon reached a 12-year high. The authors of the study said that Greenland and Antarctica both have shown all-time low levels of ice mass and glaciers are melting 31% faster than they did 15 years ago.

Tim Lenton, director of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute and study co-author, said the recent record-breaking heatwave in the western United States and Canada showed that the climate had already begun to “behave in shocking, unexpected ways”. Further, he suggested that urgent actions should be taken to decarbonize the global economy and start restoring nature instead of destroying it.

Researchers suggest an urgent need to address the root cause

A study published in the journal BioScience said, “Given these alarming developments, we need short, frequent, and easily accessible updates on the climate emergency.” According to this study, increasing ocean deoxygenation and warming waters were threatening warm-water coral reefs, upon which half a billion people rely for food, income, and storm protection. The authors also repeated previous warnings for transformative change in six major areas like eliminating fossil fuels, slashing pollutants, restoring ecosystems, switching to plant-based diets, moving away from indefinite growth models, and stabilizing the human population.

William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said, “We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue -– global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system”. Policies to curb the climate crisis should address their root cause i.e., “Overexploitation of the Earth by humans.”



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