Thousands of people took to the streets joining in a climate strike which Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg attended, in Vancouver, on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. An open letter signed by thousands of scientists from around the world may be the clearest demonstration yet of their near-unanimous agreement over the globe’s emerging climate crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Melissa Renwick

Clear and unequivocal: Thousands of scientists sign letter on climate crisis

409 of the scientists were from Canada

An open letter signed by thousands of scientists from around the world may be the clearest demonstration yet of their near-unanimous agreement over the globe’s emerging climate crisis.

Published Tuesday in the journal BioScience, the letter includes 11,258 signatures from 153 countries — including 409 from Canada.

“We declare … clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” says the letter’s opening statement.

It’s another example of a growing willingness by scientists to leave their labs in an attempt to persuade the public to take seriously what research is telling them.

“Academic (researchers) have been more involved in visible activism — going to rallies, protesting peacefully,” said Lonnie Aarssen, signatory and longtime biologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. ”That’s definitely ramped up, especially in the last year.”

Scientists at the beginning of their careers feel the same, said Alina Fisher, a signatory and University of Victoria PhD student.

“People do understand (climate change) but they don’t see how it affects them. It’s important for us as scientists to bridge that gap.”

The letter is frank about the consequences.

“The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” it says. “We must change how we live.”

Energy sources must move beyond carbon. Diets must include less meat.

“Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed … We must protect and restore Earth’s ecosystems.”

The letter includes 29 simple graphs illustrating everything from atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to livestock numbers to extreme weather events and wildfire losses. All back the letter’s urgings.

Bill Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University who organized the letter through the Alliance of World Scientists, makes no apologies for its uncompromising tone.

“I’m willing to take the risk to speak out and talk about the implications of the science that we’re seeing and how that could potentially affect the citizens of the Earth,” he said.

“I think we have this obligation. I think this is a major trend.”

It’s tough to move away from the old idea of a scientist as a neutral — and silent — provider of data, said Samantha Andrews, who’s doing her doctorate in marine biology at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

Scientists increasingly feel they don’t have to shut up about what their work means.

“Science in the ivory tower makes no difference,” she said. ”And if you’re dealing with things that are important, then we should be speaking out and we shouldn’t be afraid.

“I don’t know how you can be neutral about something like this.”

She points out most science is publicly funded and people have every right to know what their money has uncovered.

Dozens of Canadian scientists have already affixed their names to at least six open letters related to climate change since 2015. They have called for a moratorium on new oilsands mines, changes to the Fisheries Act, an end to liquid natural gas development and for Canadians to consider the issue on election day.

Get used to it, said Egor Katkov, a PhD student in freshwater ecology at McGill University in Montreal.

“Scientists would, under normal circumstances, expect that politicians or government employees consult them if the need arises,” he said in an email. “It is clear that this is not happening and that an intervention … is needed.

“It’s vital to speak out about the ecosystem emergency that is happening around the world.”

READ MORE: Activist Thunberg declines climate prize, urges more action

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Hydro urges caution over planned flow increases on Ash River

River flow increases will assist fish migration, but could pose safety risk to humans

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Indigenous regalia stolen from car in Port Alberni

RCMP are asking for information on three ceremonial items

Scammers use Port Alberni RCMP number for fraud call

Caller demanded person buy bitcoin to avoid arrest

Coulson makes teddy bear donation to Port Alberni Toy Run

Toy Run selling teddy bears to make up for lost revenue during COVID-19

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

Most Read