25 years ago, a group of scientists penned and published "World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity," which drew attention to humans’ catastrophic impact on the world. The title might sound dramatic, but the paper demonstrated real concerns about ozone depletion, deforestation, overfishing, freshwater availability, wildlife destruction, overpopulation, greenhouse gases emissions, and climate change. It was signed by 1,700 scientists.
But did we listen? No.
In fact, quite the opposite.
Alarming trends have surfaced between 1992 and 2016: the world has seen a 62.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions, a 167.6 percent rise in global average annual temperature change, a 35.5 percent increase in global population, and a 28.9 percent reduction of vertebrate wildlife as humanity has "unleashed a mass extinction event."
There were also some positive results to report, such as investments in the renewable energy sector, reductions in extreme poverty and hunger, and a drop in birth rates in some areas, as women and girls are increasingly granted access to education. But these small victories are nowhere near enough to steer humanity away from its impending doom.
Cue Attempt Number Two
In November 2017, "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice" was published in the international journal Bioscience. It received the largest-ever formal support from scientists for a journal article— signed by 20,000 scientists from 184 different countries. Is this enough for humanity to actually pay attention this time?
Kinder’s founder Mathys van Abbe, who was 18 years old when the warning came out, offered his contemporary insight on why the warning was ignored the first time round in 1992:
"Climate change wasn’t making headlines then, and still isn’t to some extent. The problem is so big and slow-moving that people find it easier to just ignore it than to be faced with it. Climate change has so many negative consequences, like ice caps melting, deforestation, species becoming extinct, flooding — it’s overwhelming. 25 years ago, the news wasn’t shared as much as it can be today. In marketing, it takes seven times for a message to get through to its audience; now with social media, and all of these different sources we have, these messages have more of a chance of getting through to people and making an impact."
This new paper reminds people that power lies in their hands since political leaders respond to public pressure; "citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life." Changes need to be made through education and improved infrastructure as scientists warn that humans need to re-engage with nature to avert disaster.
Individual actions such as reducing food waste, eating less meat, using more renewable energy sources, and having fewer children are also sustainable choices that have a positive global impact, with every single person making a difference.
This change needs to happen now; humanity can’t afford to wait for a third warning. Three strikes and we’re all out.