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

The State of Aging: COVID-19 exposed a long-term care system already in crisis

A look at Greater Victoria’s aging population and what that will mean for the future

Police seek ‘high-risk sex offender’ last seen in Victoria

Scott Jones is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for being ‘unlawfully at large’

Oak Bay home ready to house refugees, immigrants

District leases two village homes to Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society

Central Saanich police sport personalized face masks

Masks feature the crest and individual officer pin numbers

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read