PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A new climate report, led by Oregon State University researchers, says life on Earth is “under siege” as the planet’s health declines.
The BioScience report was co-authored by scientists from around the world who say earth’s vital signs “have worsened beyond anything humans have yet seen, to the point that life on the planet is imperiled.”
“Without actions that address the root problem of humanity taking more from the Earth than it can safely give, we’re on our way to the potential collapse of natural and socioeconomic systems and a world with unbearable heat and shortages of food and freshwater,” said Christopher Wolf, former OSU postdoctoral researcher.
According to the report, 20 of the 35 planetary vital signs are at record extremes and that many climate records were broken by “enormous margins” in 2023 — especially for ocean temperature and sea ice records.
“Life on our planet is clearly under siege,” said William Ripple, a professor at OSU’s College of Forestry. “The statistical trends show deeply alarming patterns of climate-related variables and disasters. We also found little progress to report as far as humanity combating climate change.”
The report also highlighted several climate-related records. This includes 2023’s “extraordinary” wildfire season in Canada that led to unprecedented carbon dioxide emissions, according to the researchers.
The report says the Canadian wildfires pumped over 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This was more than the country’s total 2021 greenhouse gas emissions of 0.67 gigatons, researchers said.
OSU also highlighted rising temperatures, noting 2023 has seen 38 days with global average temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which they say until this year was a rarity.
The scientists noted that earth recorded the highest average surface temperature ever recorded in July 2023 and believe it was the “highest surface temperature the planet has seen in the last 100,000 years.”
The report also found that fossil fuel subsidies roughly doubled between 2021 and 2022 from $531 billion to over $1 trillion.
“As scientists, we are hugely troubled by the sudden increases in the frequency and severity of climate-related disasters,” said Wolf, now a scientist with Corvallis-based Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Associates. “The frequency and severity of those disasters might be outpacing rising temperatures. By the end of the 21st century, many regions may have severe heat, limited food availability and elevated mortality rates.”
The authors recommend curtailing overconsumption and excessive emissions “by the rich.” Specifically, they suggest phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, transitioning to plant-based diets, bolstering forest protection, and adopting international coal elimination and fossil fuel non-proliferation treaties.
The report was partially funded by the CO2 Foundation and Roger Worthington, an attorney and owner of Worthy Brewing in Bend, OSU says.
The researchers furthered that all climate actions should be grounded in equity and social justice, noting extreme weather and other climate impacts disproportionately affect the poorest people who have contributed the least to climate change.
“Our goal is to communicate climate facts and make policy recommendations,” Ripple said. “It is a moral duty of scientists and our institutions to alert humanity of any potential existential threat and to show leadership in taking action.”