From the UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY and the “Tweets are now citations” department comes this inane press release which seems more interested in promoting the “people are looking at it” meme than what’s in it.
Scientists’ warning to humanity ‘most talked about paper’
No. 6 top paper ever published since global Altmetric records began, first of similar age
Twenty-five years after the first ‘scientists’ warning to humanity’, a new report is continuing to gain momentum and is already the one of the most talked about papers globally since Altmetric records began.
The paper, World scientists’ warning to humanity: A second notice, has prompted speeches about the research in Israel’s Knesset and Canada’s BC Legislature, with signatories increasing with the specially formed Alliance of World Scientists.
The latest translation includes Polish, with universities set to discuss the recommendations later this month and a push by the University of Silesia for city-wide implementation.
Co-author at the University of Sydney Dr Thomas Newsome has helped the report go viral, which has prompted almost 9,000 Tweets. The paper is inspiring responses such as the publication of a friendly satirical high-profile “final warning”.
The paper’s cumulative score is currently in sixth place out of more than 9 million publications, since Altmetric started tracking attention to research more than six years ago.
Three letters in comment, as well as a response companion piece by the Warning authors publishes today in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience.
The response piece, “Role of Scientists’ Warning in shifting policy from growth to conservation economy”, highlights two key areas for action in policy and science:
1. Nobel Prize in Economics incorporating the limits of the biosphere – The Economic Sciences Prize Committee should give greater weight to externalised environmental limits.
2. Carbon pricing globally – already implemented or planned by some 42 countries and 25 states, provinces and cities but there is an urgent need for higher carbon prices.
“There are critical environmental limits to resource-dependent economic growth,” the authors state.
Lead author of the warning letter and new response paper, ecology Professor William Ripple at Oregon State University said: “Our scientists’ warning to humanity has clearly struck a chord with both the global scientific community and the public.”
The “second notice” warning paper has received an additional 4,500+ endorsements by scientists since it published in November 2017.
There are now approximately 20,000 expert endorsements and/or co-signatories to the paper online; signatures and donations are encouraged at scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/. Updates continue from co-author @NewsomeTM on Twitter.
The paper’s Altmetric of about 7100 is gaining ground on the top paper for 2016, former United States President Barack Obama’s review of the healthcare system, which accumulated a score of 8063 in four months; most of the top 100 of all time have an Altmetric below 6000.
We are pleased to see the three follow-up letters concerning our “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” (Ripple et al. 2017). Each letter expresses a thoughtful, heartfelt response to our paper. We agree in how they describe the need to get more scientists into policymaking positions (Dror), to create a new global environmental ethic (Skubała), and to recognize economic growth as a major driver of environmental impacts (Pacheco et al.). The letters raise questions about how science interacts with society and how evidence-based reasoning can play an important role in creating a healthy relationship between humans and the biosphere.
We concur with Dror that getting scientists more politically active is important. This trend may have already started, with actions ranging from global marches for science to scientists’ running for and holding political office (Fairley 2017). One potential result of a new environmental ethic, as is suggested by Skubała, would be to recognize and accept that there are critical environmental limits to resource-dependent economic growth. In our article, we emphasize the need to “reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth” and urge revising our economy to “reduce wealth inequality” and “take into account the real costs which consumption patterns impose on the environment.” Our article also underscores the importance of stabilizing and gradually reducing the global population, which itself would be a significant contributor to ending economic growth (Victor 2010).
We agree with Pachecho and colleagues that transformative change is essential, whereby humanity abandons the pursuit of economic growth as the overarching guide to public policy. We need a new development paradigm to ensure that economies deliver well-being while respecting both social and planetary boundaries (Raworth 2017). Most helpful for this paradigm shift, both symbolically and pragmatically, would be for the scientist members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to insist that its Economic Sciences Prize Committee give greater weight to awarding prizes for economic theory that accounts for environment–economy interlinkages and feedback loops. If Nobel memorial prizes in economics were given to those drawing attention to economic drivers of environmental degradation and the well-being implications of degraded ecosystems, it would draw attention to problems with mainstream economic theory as well as encourage other economists and natural scientists to collaborate and to do more work in this area.
Another way to promote a global shift toward a conservation economy is, for example, to implement carbon pricing to mitigate climate change. Putting a price on carbon pollution has been shown to be a successful method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and driving investment into clean-energy technologies (World Bank et al. 2017). As an emerging global trend, some 42 countries and 25 states, provinces, and cities have implemented or scheduled to implement carbon-pricing mechanisms, with more jurisdictions considering implementing them in the future (http://carbonpricingdashboard.worldbank.org/). Despite this progress, accelerating the pace of action and significantly increasing the price on carbon soon will be necessary for carbon pricing to make a significant contribution to curbing climate change (World Bank et al. 2017).
Our world scientists’ warning article was signed by 15,364 scientists from 184 countries (http://scientists.forestry.oregonstate.edu). The original article has been translated into 17 different languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Dutch, German, Telugu, Hindi, Swedish, Serbian, Italian, Hebrew, Turkish, Japanese, Catalan, and Korean versions of our original scientists’ warning article can be found in the supplemental material for this article. We wanted our paper to ignite a global conversation followed by action, and it has been successful in reaching many millions of people through these language translations, mass media, and social media (https://oxfordjournals.altmetric.com/details/28854048). For example, on Twitter alone, there have been more than 8000 tweets reaching up to 14,000,000 people. Content from the paper has also been read aloud on the floor of one of Canada’s provincial legislatures (https://youtu.be/URi0WU7-Ey0). Although Dror notes that social, economic, and political change may not necessarily follow, the media discussions highlight the need to put human behavior at the center of a new environmental ethic. We are smart enough to solve these problems, as Skubała notes, but if humanity does not forcefully pursue the behavioral changes and policies we urge in our warning, the human and nonhuman suffering we warn about may multiply. An alliance among scientists, policymakers and influencers, faith/spiritual leaders, and the public will hopefully allow us to make the needed transformations. Already, we have seen examples of great conservation success when we work together to overcome environmental challenges (Sodhi et al. 2011). These conservation wins generate encouraging messages of optimism, helping garner much-needed public support to protect the Earth’s biosphere and create an environmentally sustainable future.
World Scientists’ Second Warning to Humanity: The Time for Change Is Now
Twenty-five years have passed, and humanity has received the second “Warning.” William Ripple, his co-authors, and more than 15 thousand scientists are concerned about the condition of our planet and that “humanity is not taking the urgent steps.” The real message from the warning is simple and dramatic: Soon it will be too late for us. It’s high time to wake up and start working. We are experiencing the sixth extinction event, and despite the great efforts of many scientists and educators, this critical message has not yet reached a significant part of society. It is a great shame that scientists are forced to write the warning a second time and that the environmental situation is becoming worse and worse. The scientific evidence that we have crossed boundaries is numerous and obvious. The problem is that many people do not believe scientists. Soon, we will see what humans will do with this most important message.
We are far from sustainability, and the situation is not much better than 25 years ago, when the first “Warning” was published. The Sustainable Society Index (SSI) integrates three components. In 2016, human well-being had the highest score (6.4) of the three well-being dimensions (environmental well-being and economic well-being amounted to 4.8 and 4.6, respectively). The total SSI has the value of 5.2, which means that the world is about halfway to full sustainability. The prospect of creating a sustainable society is still very distant, but we know what we need to do to achieve that goal. In the warning, we can find 13 wise, effective, and sometimes very courageous tips (e.g., promoting plant-based foods, counting hidden environmental costs, and increasing outdoor nature education) on what we must do to achieve sustainability.
I perceive the warning also as a call for a new global ethic. This was clearly highlighted in 1992 and is present in the current warning. The authors stress that it is high time to change our individual behaviors. It will be revealed whether we are truly moral beings. Many scientists are convinced that our human morality was inherited from our ancestors. Now, we will find out what we might do with this gift from the great apes.
Why didn’t the first warning reach humans? I am not sure whether the second warning will be accepted. Jane Poynter, a Biosphere 2 crewmember, emphasized that for the first time, she felt an integral component of the biosphere while taking part in the project. All or most of us do not literally feel we are part of the biosphere. As long as nature is seen outside us, separate from us, we will not be ready to accept the warning. How will the new world be if again humanity puts aside the second warning? My hope is that perhaps we are slow but we’re not stupid and that finally we will start treating Earth as our only home.