15,000 scientists say threats to planet now ‘far worse’

Updated 13 November 2017
0

15,000 scientists say threats to planet now ‘far worse’

MIAMI, USA: Twenty-five years after global scientists issued a “warning to humanity” about dangers to the environment, a new update released Monday says most of the planet’s problems are getting “far worse.”
More than 15,000 global scientists from 184 countries signed on to the letter, called the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” published in the journal BioScience.
The initial version, released in 1992 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, was signed by 1,700 experts.
Since then, nearly all major threats to the environment have grown more dire, particularly the booming world population, which has added two billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase, according to the update.
Other key threats are global warming and the ever-mounting carbon emissions driven by fossil fuel use, as well as unsustainable farming practices, deforestation, lack of fresh water, loss of marine life and growing ocean dead zones.
“Humanity is now being given a second notice, as illustrated by these alarming trends,” said the letter.
“We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats,” it added.
Scientists noted it is “especially troubling” that the world continues on a path toward “potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.”
Animals are suffering as a result of human activities, and are disappearing at an unprecedented pace.
“We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century,” it said.
Only one problem has seen considerable improvements in a quarter century — the closing of the ozone hole — thanks to a steep reduction in the use of aerosol sprays and pollutants that led to ozone depletion.
This “rapid global decline in ozone-depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively.”
The letter outlines 13 steps that must be taken, including making contraception more widely available and “estimating a scientifically defensible, sustainable human population size for the long term while rallying nations and leaders to support that vital goal.”
Other steps include promoting plant-based diets and renewable energy while phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels.
Wealth inequality must be remedied and “prices, taxation, and incentive systems (must) take into account the real costs which consumption patterns impose on our environment.”
In nature, protected reserves should be established “for a significant proportion of the world,” and the crisis of wildlife trafficking and illegal poaching halted.
“To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual,” said the letter.
“This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning.
“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
0

Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.