World scientists' warnings into action, local to global

Barnard, Phoebe, Moomaw, William R., Fioramonti, Lorenzo, Laurance, William F., Mahmoud, Mahmoud I., O'sullivan, Jane, Rapley, Christopher G., Rees, William E., Rhodes, Christopher J., Ripple, William J., Semiletov, Igor P., Talberth, John, Tucker, Christopher, Wysham, Daphne, and Ziervogel, Gina (2021) World scientists' warnings into action, local to global. Science Progress, 104 (4). pp. 1-32.

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‘We have kicked the can down the road once again – but we are running out of road.’ – Rachel Kyte, Dean of Fletcher School at Tufts University. We, in our capacities as scientists, economists, governance and policy specialists, are shifting from warnings to guidance for action before there is no more ‘road.’ The science is clear and irrefutable; humanity is in advanced ecological overshoot. Our over exploitation of resources exceeds ecosystems’capacity to provide them or to absorb our waste. Society has failed to meet clearly stated goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Civilization faces an epochal crossroads, but with potentially much better, wiser outcomes if we act now. What are the concrete and transformative actions by which we can turn away from the abyss? In this paper we forcefully recommend priority actions and resource allocation to avert the worst of the climate and nature emergencies, two of the most pressing symptoms of overshoot, and lead society into a future of greater wellbeing and wisdom. Humanity has begun the social, economic, political and technological initiatives needed for this transformation. Now, massive upscaling and acceleration of these actions and collaborations are essential before irreversible tipping points are crossed in the coming decade. We still can overcome significant societal, political and economic barriers of our own making.

Previously, we identified six core areas for urgent global action – energy, pollutants, nature, food systems, population stabilization and economic goals. Here we identify an indicative, systemic and time-limited framework for priority actions for policy, planning and management at multiple scales from household to global. We broadly follow the ‘Reduce-Remove-Repair’ approach to rapid action. To guide decision makers, planners, managers, and budgeters, we cite some of the many experiments, mechanisms and resources in order to facilitate rapid global adoption of effective solutions.

Our biggest challenges are not technical, but social, economic, political and behavioral. To have hope of success, we must accelerate collaborative actions across scales, in different cultures and governance systems, while maintaining adequate social, economic and political stability. Effective and timely actions are still achievable on many, though not all fronts. Such change will mean the difference for billions of children and adults, hundreds of thousands of species, health of many ecosystems, and will determine our common future.

Item ID: 72690
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2047-7163
Copyright Information: Creative Commons Non Commercial CC BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2022 23:23
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1899 Other environmental management > 189999 Other environmental management not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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