News - November 13, 2019

A call for help for planet Earth

Roelof Kleis

With disturbing graphs, more than 11,000 scientists are sounding the alarm concerning our climate. Among them are 60 Wageningers.

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It cannot be made any clearer. The course simply must change; the climate on planet Earth is faced with an unprecedented emergency. That is the message conveyed by a scientific article published in BioScience by scientists from the Alliance of World Scientists. The article is endorsed by more than 11,000 scientists, including 60 Wageningen scientists. ‘This could be seen as a scientific petition’, says one of them, associate professor Peter Zuidema (Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group).

Moral duty
Zuidema thinks that such a cry for help is necessary. ‘There are still people who deny the facts and exaggerate the contradictions in scientific research. I signed to emphasise that there is a large consensus among scientists.’ ‘As a scientist, I think it is my moral duty to bring this to people’s attention’, adds fellow researcher Madelon Lohbeck. ‘Scientists should keep their finger on the pulse.’

I signed to emphasise that there is a large consensus among scientists.
Pieter Zuidema

The ‘pulse’ of the planet is depicted in dozens of self-explanatory graphs. Some of these graphs show the alarming increase in human activity. The increase in population is still accelerating, as well as the size of our livestock, energy consumption and meat consumption. But the graphs also include deforestation, the number of kilometres we collectively travel and some more vital signs of human activity that heavily impact nature and the climate.


Extreme weather
Other graphs show the reaction of the climate to the aforementioned human influence. The emission of greenhouse gases still increases, and the sea level is rising. The ice is melting, glaciers are disappearing, and the oceans are heating up and acidifying. As a result, the number of cases of extreme weather is rising frighteningly fast: in the past ten years, the number has doubled from 400 to 800 per year, leading to corresponding losses and costs.

However, the scientists also point the way forward. The ingredients are nothing new. The world needs to get rid of fossil fuels quickly. We should eat less meat, waste less food, deplete the Earth less and cherish and protect nature and ecosystems. In addition, the population growth should be slowed.