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'Untold human suffering': 11,000 scientists from 153 countries warn of 'climate crisis'

Earth is facing a climate emergency, scientists are warning. Credit: AP/PA

More than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have issued a stark warning of the "untold suffering due to the climate crisis" if there is no urgent action.

"We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency," the paper, published in the journal Bioscience, states.

This unprecedented warning comes exactly 40 years since scientists from 50 nations met at the First World Climate Conference in 1979.

They say they "have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat".

Researchers set out indicators showing the impact of humans on the climate and have urged that "to secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live".

The paper describes "profoundly troubling" signs from activities including sustained increases in human populations, the amount of meat consumed per person, the number of air passengers carried and global tree cover loss, as well as carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

Plastic pollution continues to be a huge environmental issue. Credit: PA

Scientists from the University of Sydney, Oregon State University and the University of Cape Town in South Africa are joined in the warning by 11,000 signatories from 153 countries, including the UK.

The declaration is based on analysis of more than 40 years of publicly available data covering a range of measures from energy use to deforestation and carbon emissions.

A flooded neighbourhood in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence ripped through Credit: AP

The scientists warn that despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, people have largely failed to address the problem of global warming.

Now "the climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected", they say.

But there is hope, the researchers say, setting out six areas where governments, businesses and the rest of humanity can take action to lessen the worst effects of climate change.

Six areas where governments, businesses and the rest of humanity can take action, according to researchers

  • Fossil Fuels

Replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and other cleaner sources of energy, alongside implementing massive energy-saving practices.

The declaration is based on analysis of more than 40 years of publicly available data. Credit: PA
  • Reducing harmful pollutants

Prompt action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

  • Protecting natural systems

Protect and restore natural systems, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, mangroves and seagrasses which store carbon.

India's capital’s skyline is enveloped in smog and dust, a growing problem at this time of year. Credit: PA
  • Change in diet

Eating mostly plant-based foods, and reducing animal products will improve human health, cut emissions such as methane and free up land to restore habitats, while there is also a need to protect soil carbon through agricultural practices, and to cut food waste.

  • Improving ecosystems

Over-exploitation of resources driven by economic growth needs to be curtailed, with a shift from targeting GDP to sustaining ecosystems and improving wellbeing by prioritising basic needs and reducing inequality.

  • 'Gradually reduce' the world population

There is a need to stabilise, and "ideally gradually reduce", the world population, through policies such as making family-planning services available to all people and making primary and secondary education a global norm for all especially girls and young women.

If Greenland's ice sheet continues to disappear the consequences for the planet are irreversible. Credit: ITV News/Tom Clarke

Dr Thomas Newsome, at the University of Sydney, said: "Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat.

"From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency."

Dr Newsome said that measuring global surface temperatures as a marker of climate change will remain important.

He added: "While things are bad, all is not hopeless. We can take steps to address the climate emergency."