California governor makes sweeping climate change statement

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Warning that Earth is rapidly approaching a tipping point at which human impacts are causing alarming levels of harm to our planet, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has joined more than 500 world-renowned researchers and scientists to release a call to action on climate change and other global threats to all humanity. Governor Brown and the scientists released the call to action at the fourth annual Water, Energy and Smart Technology Summit and Showcase at NASA Ames Research Center.

The 20-page consensus statement, produced at the Governor’s urging and signed by more than 500 concerned scientists, translates key scientific findings from disparate fields into one unified message for policymakers, industry and the general public. This statement aims to improve the nexus between scientific research and political action on climate change.

In the opening of the statement, signatories put a specific timeline on when the global population may start “severely degrade” human living conditions. “Earth is rapidly approaching a tipping point. Human impacts are causing alarming levels of harm to our planet. As scientists who study the interaction of people with the rest of the biosphere using a wide range of approaches, we agree that the evidence that humans are damaging their ecological life-support systems is overwhelming. We further agree that, based on the best scientific information available, human quality of life will suffer substantial degradation by the year 2050 if we continue on our current path,” they write.

The statement outlines five areas with the most impact along with some broad solutions to mitigate their effects:

  • Climate change – Forecasts show that Earth will be hotter than the human species has ever experienced by the year 2070.
  • Extinctions – At the current rate of species extinction, the world will see the loss of 75 percent of vertebrate species within as little as three centuries.
  • Loss of ecosystems – As of 2012, more than 40 percent of Earth’s ice-free lands have been changed by human activity, causing species extinction and other impacts to Earth’s biodiversity.
  • Pollution – Increasing levels of toxic substances in the environment put over 100 million people at direct risk of health problems.
  • Population growth and consumption – Human population growth contributes to global environmental disruption by adding greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants to the environment and altering ecosystems.

The group of signatories is called the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. In the statement, they say that they chose these five areas to focus on in order to provide a more comprehensive view of the situation – “The vast majority of scientists who study the interactions between people and the rest of the biosphere agree on a key conclusion: that the five interconnected dangerous trends listed above are having detrimental effects, and if continued, the already-apparent negative impacts on human quality of life will become much worse within a few decades. The multitude of sound scientific evidence to substantiate this has been summarized in many recent position papers and consensus statements (a few samples are listed on pp. 28-29), and documented in thousands of articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. However, the position papers and consensus statements typically focus only on a subset of the five key issues (for example, climate change, or biodiversity loss, or pollution), and access to the peer-reviewed literature is often difficult for non-scientists. As a result, policy makers faced with making critical decisions can find it cumbersome both to locate the pertinent information and to digest the thousands of pages through which it is distributed.”

In their prescriptions for a response to climate change, the group outlines advantageous technologies, along with policy recommendations that might help. The end appendix also offers a solid round up of the scientific research and where to find it for review. But, they say even though 2050 may be far off, state and local governments and indeed their citizens need to start now as the damage is already taking place. They take each of the five areas and put them into their own section, outlining the specific rates of change/damage as well as solutions, concluding that – “The window of time for this global effort to begin is short, because the science also demonstrates that with each passing year of business as usual, the problems not only become worse, they become more expensive and difficult to solve, and our chances of avoiding the worst outcomes diminish. Put another way, starting now means we have a good chance of success; delaying even a decade may be too late.”