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“Potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable "

Bradley Hughes

November 5, 2019

More than 11,000 scientists have signed a declaration stating, “that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”. Their intention is to, “tell it like it is” and, “present a suite of graphical vital signs of climate change over the last 40 years for human activities that can affect GHG emissions and change the climate.”

The declaration includes two sets of charts that record the accelerated pace of environmental destruction over the last 40 years. For example, world GDP has increased by more than 8 times over that period. The number of passengers traveling by air has increased by over 6 times, greenhouse gas emissions have nearly doubled and per capita emissions have increased by a quarter. Fossil fuel subsidies have decreased relative to 2010, but the trend over the last three years has been for massive increases. And despite nearly $8 trillion in institutional divestment, oil, gas and coal consumption have all increased: oil by 20%, coal consumption has doubled and natural gas consumption has tripled.

The charts also document the consequences of capitalism's growth, there is now 50% more CO2 in the atmosphere, sea level has risen by 50 cm, arctic sea ice, ice in the glaciers in Greenland and across Antarctica have all drastically declined. Extreme weather events have increased from 200 per year in 1980 to over 800 in 2018. Measured in dollars, losses due to weather have increased from $50 billion a year to over $350 billion.

The authors point out that despite 40 years of climate summits and agreements, “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature's reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic “hothouse Earth,” well beyond the control of humans. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable. ”

Their response to this is a call to action, “Our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality.” This can only be possible if we remove the power and privileges of the 1% and the capitalist system that sustains them.

But the authors seem to accept that any changes must be done within the bounds set by capitalism. They outline the need for an all out assault on the fossil fuel industry, calling for quickly increasing energy efficiency and immediately ending fossil fuel subsidies. They call on wealthier countries to contribute to the costs of the this transition in poorer countries. These goals can only be achieved if we are organized and strong enough to force the fossil fuel companies and the banks out of business. The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) alone has over $100 billion invested in fossil fuels, the climate emergency means we must make that investment worth nothing.

Check out the declaration for yourself, the authors have written it in a style that is accessible to all.

According to the authors, “The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual. ”

But to do that we need to build a climate strike movement that can take on capitalism and its insatiable appetite for destruction.

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