More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries worldwide, including scores from Massachusetts universities, have signed a letter warning that Earth’s environment is on the road to destruction.
The “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: Second Notice,” calls for action to avert irreversible damage to the planet. The letter was published as a Viewpoint article in Monday’s edition of the journal Bioscience.
The number of signatories may be the largest for any published scientific paper ever, said co-author Thomas Newsome, a research fellow at Deakin University and The University of Sydney.
“It’s an overwhelming response we didn’t quite expect,” he said in a statement. “People just started sharing the letter; it was added to a few e-mail lists and things just took off from there.”
The paper is a “second notice” because 25 years ago, a majority of the world’s Nobel laureates and other scientists signed a warning letter, saying issues such as ozone depletion, forest loss, climate change, and population growth needed to be addressed.
“In this paper we look back on these trends and evaluate the subsequent human response by exploring the available data,” Newsome said. Of nine areas, only one has seen improvement: There’s been a reduction in chemicals that harm the ozone layer, the university said.
The scientists said that especially troubling was the “current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change.”
The letter is being released as the UN Climate Change Conference is underway in Bonn, Germany, amid what organizers say is a renewed urgency due to extreme weather events like this year’s hurricanes and wildfires.
“To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning,” the article said.
“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home,” the article said.