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

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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

Exact numbers are not known for active cases in Golden. (File photo)
No cluster in Golden, according to Interior Health

Despite positive cases in the community, no cluster or outbreak has been declared by Interior Health

Glass of whiskey
UBCO substance use clinic goes virtual

The clinic is adapting the way it provides services as the pandemic continues

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

RCMP searched for a suspect in Polson Park following an assault on a woman Thursday, Nov. 26. (Morning Star file photo)
Public warned after woman assaulted in Vernon’s Polson Park

RCMP on the hunt for suspect, described as in his 30’s

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

The Rutland IGA is located in Willow Park Shopping Centre at 590 BC-33. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Customer asked to mask up, throws hot coffee at Kelowna IGA employee

The woman grabbed cat food on her way out when she refused to wear a mask

City of Armstrong Public Works Yard. (Google Maps)
Armstrong city staffer threatened in snow removal complaint

Community services manager says ‘veiled threat’ is believed to have been flippant, but is being taken seriously

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The Okanagan Quality Life Society which usually gives tours of Okanagan Lake to seniors and shut-ins on its boat Heaven Can Wait has created a virtual tour video in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down the tours in 2020. (Morning Star - file photo)
Okanagan Lake virtual boat tours launched

Okanagan Quality Life Society normally gives tours on Okanagan Lake on its boat Heaven Can Wait

Most Read