By Sophie Squire
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Growing evidence says we’re ‘beyond tipping points’ in climate crisis

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Issue 2765
Glaciers are losing 31 percent more ice and snow than 15 years ago
Glaciers are losing 31 percent more ice and snow than 15 years ago (Pic: Nasa on Flickr)

The Earth’s “vital signs” are getting worse because of an “unrelenting business as usual”.

That’s the finding of a new climate report—back by over 10,000 scientists—published on Wednesday.

The report in the BioScience journal examined “vital signs”, key markers of the planet’s health such as greenhouse gas emissions, glacier thickness and deforestation.

It found that 18 out of 31 “vital signs” had reached record highs and lows this year. And in fact, 13 broke records. 

Professor William Ripple, a lead author, warned, “There is growing evidence we are getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points.”

These tipping points “associated with important parts of the Earth system” include “warm-water coral reefs, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets”.

Deforestation is at an all time high, with 1.11 million hectares destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest between 2019 and 2020. 

Glaciers are losing 31 percent more ice and snow than 15 years ago.

And while fossil fuel consumption fell during the pandemic in 2020, it is very likely to rise once again this year.


Carbon dioxide concentration levels reached their highest ever monthly average in April.

The report comments, “A major lesson from Covid-19 is that even colossally decreased transportation and consumption are not nearly enough. And that, instead, transformational system changes are required.”

It points to world leaders’ promises to “build back better” and redirect Covid-19 recovery funds into green policies.

But it found that only 17 percent of these funds have actually been put into environmental policies as of March this year. 

Financial institutions are funding climate destruction
Financial institutions are funding climate destruction
  Read More

In the face of “intensifying urgency and insufficient efforts”, the report calls for action on six steps.

These include a complete move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. It says, “The phaseout of fossil fuels should be similarly comprehensive and it must ultimately prohibit fossil fuel-related exploration, production and infrastructure development.” 

In addition to cutting back on fossil fuels, the report calls for moves to restore biodiversity and away from “overconsumption by the wealthy”.

Yet it also buys into the false idea that overpopulation is fuelling climate chaos, with calls for “stabilising and gradually reducing the population”. The problem isn’t too many people—it’s too many rich people and their system that puts the pursuit of profit before people and planet.

The report ends by saying action must be taken now. “We must join together as a global community with a shared sense of urgency, cooperation, and equity,” it says.

Only action by ordinary people will force urgent action over climate change.

Climate protests outside the Cop26 talks in Glasgow in November are an opportunity to rage at the world leaders, whose inaction is leading us closer to catastrophe. 

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