- Scientists warn of global collapse due to interacting natural disasters
- Earth could end up in an irreversible and unending cycle of global warming
- People should stop treating environmental crises as isolated events
Over 200 scientists warned that Earth is in danger of suffering a global systemic collapse due to the number of natural disasters and weather events happening at the same time. If these continue, Earth could end up in an endless spiral of global warming.
The dire warning was made by scientists on Wednesday following a report released by Future Earth, an international research organization. The report detailed how the overlapping global crises could trigger a systemic collapse.
Although the report identified around 30 global scale environmental risks, it highlighted the top five that have the most impact on Earth. These include climate change, extreme weather patterns, weakening food security, dwindling freshwater sources and the decline of ecosystems that sustain life.
According to the scientists, since these global events are happening at the same time and at massive scales, they are already overlapping one another. For instance, heatwaves caused by extreme weather cause global warming to accelerate by releasing natural planet-warming gases.
The loss of biodiversity, on the other hand, threatens sources of food by impacting natural resources.
If the current trend continues, scientists warn that Earth could suffer from an irreversible collapse in its entire ecosystem. Once this happens, the global crises could trigger wide-scale effects that would put the planet in an unending cycle of global warming. This would then have direct effects on a number of factors such as biodiversity and food security.
“Many scientists and policymakers are embedded in institutions that are used to thinking and acting on isolated risks, one at a time,” they stated. “We call on the world's academics, business leaders and policy makers to pay attention to these five global risks and ensure they are treated as interacting systems.”
In October, the world's nations are set to gather for a major United Nations meeting in Kunming, China to try to stanch the destruction of ecosystems and the decline of biodiversity.
Scientists agree that Earth is at the outset of a mass extinction event – only the 6th in half-a-billion years – which could drive a million species, or one-in-eight, into oblivion over the coming decades or centuries.
The following month, a critical UN climate summit in Glasgow will reveal whether the world's major economies are willing to ramp up carbon cutting pledges that fall far short of what is needed to keep the planet hospitable for our species.
2020 is also a critical year in ongoing negotiations over the high seas, where a Far West free-for-all has led to overfishing and unrestrained resource extraction.
Some scientists have begun to look at the likelihood and impacts of cascading environmental crises.
Recent research has shown, for example, that some parts of the world may soon be coping with up to six extreme weather events at once, ranging from heat waves and wildfires to diluvian rains and deadly storm surges.
"Human society will be faced with the devastating combined impacts of multiple interacting climate hazards," Erik Franklin, a researcher at the University of Hawaii's Institute of Marine Biology and co-author of a key study in late 2018, told AFP.
"They are happening now and will continue to get worse."
That is true even in optimistic emissions reduction scenarios.