In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists and another 1700 independent scientists signed a letter entitled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” The letter outlined the drastic changes in climate and weather patterns around the world, and warned of the “collision course” that Earth’s population was on if it were to remain on its trajectory of environmental abuse. Fast forwardtwenty-five years, and the world is not on this course anymore, but on one even more grim. This is reflected in the sheer number of scientists that have signed a second warning to humanity: an alarming 16,000 from 184 different nations.
The new article was posted on the American Institute for Biological Sciences’ website, created by scientist William Ripple and his colleagues to address the “daunting environmental challenges” that our world is currently facing. The sum of its parts is the plea for the public to pressure governments and non-governmental organizations to find effective solutions to current environmental problems fast, or else suffer the “substantial and irreversible” harms of long-term environmental degradation and ignorance.
The overwhelming number of concerned scientists, coming from just about every corner of the world, should be enough to convince someone of the gravity of the contemporary environmental issue. But despite these grave concerns and warnings, there is still a fighting chance for the globe. One such notion is presented in the second warning. Despite drastic implications for almost every environmental topic that the report identifies (freshwater, forestry, dead zones, etc.), there has been a stabilization of one major component: the ozone layer. In CNN’s summary of the scientists’ concerns, Jen Christensen noted that the layer was quickly depleting before the United Nations’ enactment of the 1987 Montreal Protocol. Since then, the ozone layer has become stabilized and is “expected to see a significant recovery” in the coming decades. William Ripple believes this to be a sign of the “huge impact” that people can have by coming together with a common goal.
This idea of coming together with a common goal is perhaps what will give humanity a fighting chance. For example, the 2015 Paris Agreement on the economic adaptation to climate change is a testament to the will of humanity to band together for a common goal. Even though these adaptations and counter-attacks won’t come into effect until 2020, it is clear that humanity still has the will to fight together. Panels, advocates, and conferences such as the one in Paris are key for lobbying the important issue that will influence policy changes.
There are massive benefits to be reaped should the world band together, but there are also many that come with any single nation taking action. For example, the issue of carbon emissions is being counteracted by multiple individual nations with their own goals. This year, multiple governments announced the banning of petrol car sales in a relatively realistic timeline. Among these were France and the United Kingdom (who announced their bans to take effect in 2040), Norway (banning by 2025) and India
(expecting to ban by 2030). Of course, these policy changes will have massively complex economic impacts, but from a strictly environmental point of view, the improvement of air quality and reduction of carbon emissions will have monumental benefits for the environment.
While a fighting chance lies in the cooperation of the world and the initiatives of sovereigns, change can still be made by any one individual. Even small cities such as Waterloo, Ontario (the home of S4S), individual initiatives are plentiful. Nonprofits such as RARE Charitable Research Reserve, Sustainable Waterloo Region, and all others in our network are premier examples of dedicated local activism, started by environmentalists with the common goals of preservation and sustainability. A simple donation or some volunteer work is enough for one person to be actively making a difference. William Ripple did not set out to solve every problem in a day, but simply to “trigger a worldwide conversation” about these problems. If more people begin to involve themselves in this discussion, then there is no doubt about the fighting chance that they can have together.