‘Code red’ is here: Scientists say Earth’s vital signs show ‘humanity unequivocally facing ‘climate emergency’

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Earth’s vital signs have reached such a dire state that humanity is unequivocally facing a “climate emergency,” a team of scientists warn.

The special report states that 16 of 35 planetary vital signs which track climate change are at record extremes, and that Earth has entered a “code red” level. New data shows more frequent and extreme heat waves, increasing loss of global tree cover due to fires, and a greater prevalence of the mosquito-borne dengue virus.

The international team, including researchers from Oregon State University, says that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached 418 parts per million, the highest on record.

“Look at all of these fires, floods and massive storms,” says lead author Professor William Ripple in a university release. “The specter of climate change is at the door and pounding hard.”

Prof. Ripple and the team published their report, titled “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022,” in the journal BioScience. The authors start the paper off right away by writing: “We are now at ‘code red’ on planet Earth. Humanity is unequivocally facing a climate emergency. The scale of untold human suffering, already immense, is rapidly growing with the escalating number of climate-related disasters. Therefore, we urge scientists, citizens, and world leaders to read this Special Report and quickly take the necessary actions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

‘Climate change is not a standalone issue’

The report follows up on a previous study from five years ago, which was signed by more than 15,000 scientists in 184 countries.

“As we can see by the annual surges in climate disasters, we are now in the midst of a major climate crisis, with far worse to come if we keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them,” adds postdoctoral researcher Christopher Wolf. “We implore our fellow scientists to join us in advocating for research-based approaches to climate and environmental decision-making.”

Climate change is not a standalone issue,” says Saleemul Huq of Independent University Bangladesh. “It is part of a larger systemic problem of ecological overshoot where human demand is exceeding the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. To avoid more untold human suffering, we need to protect nature, eliminate most fossil fuel emissions and support socially just climate adaptations with a focus on low-income areas that are most vulnerable.”

Their report points out that in the three decades since more than 1,700 scientists signed the original World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in 1992, global greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 40 percent.

“As Earth’s temperatures are creeping up, the frequency or magnitude of some types of climate disasters may actually be leaping up,” the University of Sydney’s Thomas Newsome concludes. “We urge our fellow scientists around the world to speak out on climate change.”

South West News Service writer Danny Halpin contributed to this report.

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