World leaders “need a cold shower regarding the state of our environment, both to plan and act to avoid a ghastly future”, according to 17 leading scientists who have assessed the current state of civilisation. They warn the outlook for planet Earth “is more dire and dangerous than is generally understood”.
The experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.
“The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.
A loss of biodiversity and accelerating climate change in coming decades coupled with ignorance and inaction “is threatening the survival of all species, including our very own”, say the experts. These experts include eminent biologists at Stanford University and UCLA in the United States, and Flinders University in Australia.
“Humans causing rapid loss”
Lead author Prof Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University said the group had summarised the state of the natural world in stark form to help clarify the gravity of the human predicament. “Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation,” Prof Bradshaw said.
“The problem is compounded by ignorance and short-term self-interest, with the pursuit of wealth and political interests stymying the action that is crucial for survival,” he added.
The expert in mass extinction, Prof Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, said no political or economic system, or leadership, was prepared to handle the predicted disasters, or even capable of such action.
“Humanity is running an ecological scam”
“Stopping biodiversity loss is nowhere close to the top of any country’s priorities, trailing far behind other concerns such as employment, healthcare, economic growth, or currency stability,” he said.
“Human population growth and consumption continues to escalate, and we’re still more focused on expanding human enterprise than we are on devising and implementing solutions to critical issues such as biodiversity loss. By the time we fully comprehend the impact of ecological deterioration, it will be too late.”
“Problems will worsen in coming decades”
The experts say that they seek to outline clearly and unambiguously likely future trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption, and planetary “toxification” – all tied to human consumption and population growth. It is also “to demonstrate the near certainty these problems will worsen over coming decades, with negative impacts for centuries to come”.
The added stresses to human health, wealth and wellbeing will perversely diminish political capacity to mitigate the erosion of ecosystem services on which society depends, they find.
“The science underlying these issues is strong, but awareness is weak.” The paper – Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future – is published in the latest issue of Frontiers in Conservation Science.