The Swedish Academy of Sciences has published a “State of The Planet” report in the lead up to first Nobel Prize Summit. The summit has been called to try to achieve action on the major problems facing the world.
The Summit will be hosted by the Nobel Foundation from April 26-28 and open to all to view online is. It also has the backing of the US National Academy of Sciences and major European research institutions.
Prominent environmental scientists from around the world have published a paper in Ambio summarizing the issues the summit will address. Rather than new research, it aims to present existing knowledge in a form that may be more widely consumed. Cutting edge science is extensively cited for those who doubt, or wish to delve deeper.
“Humans are the dominant force of change on the planet, giving rise to a new epoch referred to as the Anthropocene,” The paper begins. “This new epoch has profound meaning for humanity and one that we are only beginning to fully comprehend.”
The scope is much wider than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports – adding biodiversity loss, inequality of wealth and power, and the sustainability of society as a whole to global heating. The goal is to view how these issues relate, rather than treating them as separate problems. Technological and social innovations that may address or exacerbate these challenges are considered in the context of the barriers to their adoption.
The report is filled with one shocking statistic after another. Lead author Stockholm University’s Professor Carl Folke highlighted the fact that “About 96% of all mammals by weight are us, H. Sapiens, and our livestock, or cattle, sheep and pigs. Just 4% are wild mammals like elephants, buffalo or dolphins," in a statement.
“Scientific evidence makes clear that both climate change and biodiversity loss are symptoms of the great acceleration of human actions into the Anthropocene, rather than independent phenomena,” the paper notes. Later on, it adds. “A pervasive thread in science is that building resilient societies, ecosystems, and ultimately the health of the entire Earth system hinges on supporting, restoring and regenerating diversity in intertwined social and ecological dimensions. Diversity builds insurance and keeps systems resilient to changing circumstances.”
"In a single human lifetime, largely since the 1950s, we have grossly simplified the biosphere, a system that has evolved over 3.8 billion years. Now just a few plants and animals dominate the land and oceans," Folke said "Our actions are making the biosphere more fragile, less resilient and more prone to shocks than before.”
One of the Summit's main goals is to apply the lessons of the pandemic to other issues. "The global pandemic is an Anthropocene phenomena," Folke said. "It has been caused by our intertwined relationship with nature and our hyper-connectivity. But the pandemic crisis opens up the possibility to change the course of history. It is a moment to accelerate action to stabilize Earth for future generations,"
"The risks we are taking are astounding," said co-author Professor Johan Rockström, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "We are at the dawn of what must be a transformative decade. The Nobel Prize Summit is really the scientific community shouting "Wake Up!""