Climate change drought

CABI researchers are among more than 11,000 world scientists who have penned their signatures to a paper, published in the journal BioScience, which warns of a climate change emergency facing the Earth.

Dr Roger Day, Dr Hariet Hinz, Dr Emma Jenner, Dr Urs Schaffner and Brandon Whitehead have all signed a petition – hosted by the Alliance of World Scientists – which follows the publication of the viewpoint article ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency’ by lead author Professor William J Ripple of Oregon State University.

Prof Ripple et al state that: ‘Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.’

The paper goes on to highlight six key areas which need urgent attention to lessen the worst effects of climate change: food, energy, nature, the economy, population and short-lived pollutants.

In respect of food, Prof Ripple and the co-authors argue that: ‘Eating mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products, especially ruminant livestock, can improve human health and significantly lower GHG emissions.

‘Moreover, this will free up croplands for growing much-needed human plant food instead of livestock feed, while releasing some grazing land to support natural climate solutions. Cropping practices such as minimum tillage that increase soil carbon are vitally important. We need to drastically reduce the enormous amount of food waste around the world.’

Dr Urs Schaffner, Head of Ecosystems Management at CABI’s Switzerland Centre, also points to the paper’s emphasis on nature and how ‘we must protect and restore the Earth’s ecosystems.’

“Importantly, the paper not only mentions the role of forests in carbon storage, but also that of other ecosystems. Grasslands, for example, are one of the world’s major ecosystems, supporting high biodiversity, contributing to agricultural production and providing a variety of ecosystem services, including soil carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water regulation and soil erosion control. Unfortunately, today they belong to the most heavily degraded ecosystems, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.

“Restoring and protecting degraded grasslands not only has the potential to significantly contribute to climate change mitigation, but also to improve the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people who rely on them for food, forage and fuel,” he said.


The grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Examples of CABI’s work in this field include the project which sought to restore the grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China – the largest area of grassland on the Eurasian continent and includes the Three-River Headwater region that supplies water to over a billion people.

The CABI scientists agree with the paper’s conclusions which highlight that: ‘Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honouring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.’

Prof Ripple et al go on to add that the Alliance of World Scientists stands ‘ready to assist decision-makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future.’ They urge the ‘widespread use of vital signs, which will better allow policymakers, the private sector, and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change.’

Other examples of CABI’s work with a climate change focus include in sub-Saharan Africa where we are leading a £6.3 million project to create a Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), using environmental data and models on pest life cycles to create risk assessments. In Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, we are helping to develop environmentally-friendly practices against pests in Climate Smart Villages as a way of building resilience to climate change in rural communities.

As part of the initiative for coffee and climate, we helped to create and share farming knowledge in the form of tool kits to help coffee farmers in Brazil, Colombia, Tanzania and Vietnam improve and protect their crops in the face of climate change.


Additional information

Full paper reference

William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R Moomaw, ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency’, BioScience, 2019, DOI: 101.1093/biosci/biz088

The paper is available as an open access document

Read more about the article, sign it and view the signatories on the Alliance of World Scientists website.

Discover how CABI is helping farmers adapt to climate change – for example through projects that apply, among other things, our expertise in digital development and crop health, from the Climate Change and Biodiversity page on