Multiple overlapping environmental crises could trigger a “global systemic collapse”
The overlap of environmental crises could lead the planet to a "global systemic collapse," warned more than 200 world scientists.
Climate change, the loss of biodiversity, the decrease of freshwater and food sources, and extreme weather events, from hurricanes to heat waves, will be a monumental challenge for humanity in the 21st century.
Of the 30 global risks, these five topped the list both in terms of probability and impact, according to scientists surveyed by Future Earth, an international research organization.
the report, published on Thursday, asked academics, business leaders and policy makers around the world to "pay urgent attention" to the five risks and consider them interrelated.
Australian firefighters extinguish a fire that crossed the Monaro road near Bredbo, New South Wales, on February 2, 2020. Australia was devastated by wildfires in the midst of an unusual drought, says the Future Earth report, in part caused by climate change induced by human activity
An interconnected risk network has the potential to lead to a global systemic crisis, which means that it affects the entire Earth and its inhabitants rather than a particular part.
In combination, & # 39; have the potential to impact and amplify each other in ways that could generate a global systemic collapse & # 39 ;, said a team led by Maria Ivanova, a professor at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts. A 50 page report.
"Humanity is at a critical stage in the transition to a more sustainable planet and society," said Amy Luers, executive director of Future Earth.
‘Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective future on Earth.
"2020 is a critical time to analyze these problems."
Of the five main problems, extreme heat waves are accelerating global warming by releasing gases that heat the planet from natural sources.
While Europe had its third warmest place and Asia the fourth warmest October recorded, the dry and warm conditions in Australia caused intense fires this season that killed approximately one billion animals in the country.
Australia's wildfires and fires in the Amazon region in 2019 were partly caused by climate change, according to the report, as warmer air extracts moisture from vegetation, creating drier fuel and feeding the wind To fan the flames
Meanwhile, in the Arctic region, the last five years have been the warmest recorded, melting sea ice and affecting wildlife, fisheries and local communities.
Melting of sea ice, iceberg rim in Baffin Bay, Nunavut, Canada. Scientists say that rising sea levels caused by glacial ice accumulation and higher global temperatures make urban areas, such as cities, vulnerable to flooding.
But the greater the warming, the greater the anticipated impacts of heat waves are also in cities, mainly in places of high rates of urbanization, poverty and marginalization in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
"A warmer world has greater risks of floods, landslides, fires and infectious and parasitic diseases," says the report.
Meanwhile, the loss of biodiversity weakens the ability of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climatic extremes, which also puts the food supply at risk.
NASA satellite image showing meltwater ponds on the George VI ice shelf, Antarctica, January 19, 2020
In another part of the report, the authors highlight malnutrition in poor parts of the world compared to the obesity crisis in developed countries.
"The amount of food produced per person on the planet has increased by more than 40 percent since the 1960s," he says.
However, the prevalence of malnutrition has begun to increase again: the total number of malnourished people in 2018 was more than 820 million people, compared to a record low of 785 million in 2015.
Forest fires continue: NSW RFS teams extinguish a fire that crossed Monaro Road, four kilometers north of Bredbo, NSW, on Sunday, February 2, 2020
At the same time, some 1.9 billion people are overweight and 650 million are obese, which reveals a discrepancy in food security.
The world needs to feed about 9 billion people on a planet with diminished natural resources.
But tensions in food production are expected to increase due to climate and environmental changes, the report says, once again highlighting how the five main risks on a global scale are closely related.
Scientists are especially concerned that rising temperatures can lead the planet's climate system to a spiral of global warming that perpetuates itself.
As things stand, humanity is struggling, so far without success, to limit carbon dioxide and methane emissions, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels.
Residents push a submerged car on a flooded street in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 1, 2020
If at the same time a warming Earth also begins to emit large amounts of these gases, for example, when defrosting permafrost, such efforts could be overwhelmed.
"Many scientists and policy makers are integrated into institutions that are accustomed to thinking and acting on isolated risks, one at a time," says the report.
"We call on academics, business leaders and policy makers around the world to pay attention to these five global risks and ensure that they are treated as interactive systems."
Nearly 1,000 decision makers and top CEOs highlighted the same threats in a similar survey last month before the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Residents walk near the remains of vehicles that were swept away by floods in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, on January 3, 2020. Serious floods in Greater Jakarta have killed tens of people and displaced tens of thousands more , said the country's disaster management agency.
In October, the nations of the world will meet for an important United Nations meeting in Kunming, China, to try to stop the destruction of ecosystems and the decline of biodiversity.
Scientists agree that the Earth is at the beginning of an event of mass extinction, only the sixth in half a billion years, which could lead to forgetting a million species, or one in eight, in the next decades or centuries.
The following month, a critical summit on the UN climate in Glasgow will reveal whether the world's major economies are willing to increase promises of carbon reduction that are far from what is needed to keep the planet hospitable for our species.
Some scientists have begun analyzing the likelihood and impacts of cascading environmental crises in the past 12 months, including Australian forest fires, floods in the Philippines and cyclones in Africa.
Research has shown that some parts of the world will soon be able to cope with up to six extreme weather events at once, ranging from heat waves and forest fires to biblical floods and deadly storm surges.
"Human society will face the devastating combined impacts of multiple climate hazards that interact," Erik Franklin, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii and co-author of a key study in late 2018, told AFP.
"They are happening now and will continue to get worse."
Even if humanity limits global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement of 2015, New York City will likely face a major climate hazard every year, in average, for the year 2100.
However, if carbon pollution continues incessantly, the Big Apple could be affected by up to four of these calamities at once, including extreme rains, sea level rise and storm surge.
WHAT IS THE PARIS AGREEMENT?
The Paris Agreement, which was signed for the first time in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.
He hopes to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) & # 39; and continue efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) & # 39 ;.
It seems that the most ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research that claims that 25 percent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions.
In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention that the United States, the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, withdraw from the agreement.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main objectives with respect to emission reduction:
1) A long-term objective of maintaining the increase in global average temperature below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels
2) Aim to limit the increase to 1.5 ° C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
3) Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognizing that this will take more time for developing countries
4) Make rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science
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