Author: Teemu Koskimäki
Despite the apocalyptic and potentially depressive representation of facts that the 2019 warning laid out, I found the warning to be refreshingly on point. It contained many outstanding lines of text, quoted below with my thoughts following each.
“An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering”
Although more importantly, we need a fundamental change in the character of those endeavours.
“The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. The most affluent countries are mainly responsible for the historical GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions and generally have the greatest per capita emissions”
Meaning we living in the developed countries have to change first and help others, too.
“Profoundly troubling signs from human activities include sustained increases in both human and ruminant livestock populations, per capita meat production, world gross domestic product”
So, eat less meat, have less children, and question the validity of GDP growth.
“A much higher carbon fee price is needed”, along with increasing its coverage over the global GHG emissions.
We must correct the price of carbon, so that people would be incentivized to choose sustainably whenever the things they consume have caused carbon to be emitted.
“Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament”
Warnings and information do little, if the structures of the economy and society are not fundamentally changed. Now.
“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.”
So… let’s do things, ok? Let’s solve the things that block us from doing the things, and then do the things. Personally, economically, and societally. A key is to actively build, support and demand changes to the prevailing incentive structures.
“we need bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies”
Since population is an amplifier, not a cause, we mostly need to change the economic system. Set your primary focus on that.
“Wealthier countries need to support poorer nations in transitioning away from fossil fuels. We must swiftly eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels and use effective and fair policies for steadily escalating carbon prices”.
A good practical start that addresses the incentive structures.
“The world must quickly implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices and must replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables. We should leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground”
In order to achieve this, a great socioeconomic transformation and transition is needed in all nations of the world. I think that is exciting!
“Eating mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products, especially ruminant livestock, can improve human health and significantly lower GHG emissions”
So, go vegan. Or go vegetarian. Or simply start by having meat-free days and weeks and work upwards from there! Based on personal experience, I can say that it’s easier than you might think (and plenty of people are excited to help)!
“We need to drastically reduce the enormous amount of food waste around the world”
So, do your part.
“Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed”
Which can be achieved by curtailing economic growth. So let’s find ways to decouple it and/or ways to thrive without it.
“We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere and policies that guide economic decisions accordingly. “
Align the market economy with the environment, use policies to make it address the externalities and include them in prices. Fix market failures. If that doesn’t work, plan a new economy (several options exist, see for example the Well-being Economy of WeAll or the Resource Based Economy of TVP and TZM). A key here is to avoid dualisms, i.e. the false dilemma fallacy.
“Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honoring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
So, be ready for major transformations. Embrace it.
“We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities, and businesses are responding.”
However, without change in the underlying incentive structure of the socioeconomic system – the short-sighted self-interested profit maximization that is reinforced by the competitive market economy – the response will be limited and temporary. So, focus on fundamentally correcting the underlying incentive structure for everyone.
“As the Alliance of World Scientists, we stand ready to assist decision-makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future.”
How wonderful it is to hear that other scientists are willing to do this as well. Now we just have to make sure we understand system dynamics and the socioeconomic structures enough to know how to create effective, sustainable and lasting change. Think about that and work on it.
“transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual”
So, be happy about the ongoing transformational change and become an active part in it!
You can read and download the World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency here: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806
How to cite this blog post:
Koskimäki (2019) Thoughts on the World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. Blog post. Available at: https://teemukoskimaki.com/thoughts-on-the-world-scientists-warning-of-a-climate-emergency (Accessed [date]).