222 Scientists Agree: This Is The Biggest Threat To Future Generations

In the wake of the devastating bushfires that have ravaged Australia, the spotlight has been cast upon the profound impact of climate change on human health. This season’s bushfires have already claimed over 30 lives, leaving many individuals struggling with smoke inhalation and mental health issues.

These alarming changes in the frequency and intensity of bushfires worldwide are just one of the tragic consequences of climate change underscored in the recent report, “Our Future on Earth, 2020.” This report, published by Future Earth, an international sustainability research network, draws on the insights of 222 leading scientists from 52 countries. These experts have identified five global risks that threaten the well-being of our planet and future generations:

  1. Failure of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
  2. Extreme Weather Events
  3. Major Biodiversity Loss and Ecosystem Collapse
  4. Food Crises
  5. Water Crises

These risks have been identified as the most severe in terms of their impact on planetary health – the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it relies. What’s particularly concerning is the interplay and feedback loops between these risks, exacerbating each other and potentially leading to a worldwide systemic crisis. It’s not just bushfires alone; it’s the synergy of bushfires with drought, biodiversity loss, floods, and ecosystem degradation.

It’s crucial to recognize that these global risks are interconnected, and addressing them in isolation is not an effective approach. Policies that consider the broader picture and the relationships between these risks are essential for sustainable solutions.

The pressing question raised by this report is whether humanity can thrive on Earth in the face of these challenges. The answer hinges on our collective and urgent actions to reduce our environmental footprint.

Amidst the grim outlook, the report also shines a light on areas of progress. It covers a range of topics, from food and oceans to politics and media. While technology has often been used to promote consumption and economic growth at the expense of ecosystems, there’s potential for the digital sector to play a significant role in reducing emissions and safeguarding ecosystems.

For example, digital technologies can enhance energy efficiency, reduce emissions in buildings, transport, and industry, and provide real-time data for monitoring forests and combatting deforestation. It’s an opportunity to harness technology for sustainable development and environmental protection.

The report also emphasizes the need to shift from the “great acceleration” of economic growth that has strained Earth’s systems. Reversing this trend requires leveraging investments and financial instruments for sustainable development, such as green bonds and sustainability-linked loans.

Connecting these global crises through the lens of health offers a holistic perspective for addressing them. First, it underscores the urgency of action, as extreme weather events linked to climate change are already affecting health. Australia, for instance, has experienced hazardous air pollution due to bushfire smoke, impacting half of its population. Mental health concerns related to bushfires are also on the rise.

Health provides a personal and relatable dimension to these issues, highlighting the real impact on communities and individuals. It’s not just an abstract environmental problem; it affects people’s lives and livelihoods.

Moreover, the transition to sustainable development can yield health benefits. For instance, by 2030, we have the potential to reduce the annual deaths from air pollution by two-thirds. This health lens illuminates potential win-win solutions and helps policymakers grapple with the enormity of the crises we face.

Dr. Gro Brundtland, who chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, underscores the need for nations to return to multilateralism. The health of Australian people is intertwined with that of people from other nations, emphasizing our global interdependence. This calls for active support of initiatives like the Paris Agreement on climate change and a critical examination of the health impacts of our coal exports.

Beyond humans, Dr. Brundtland’s call for multilateralism reminds us of the interconnectedness of all species on Earth. It’s a stark reminder that our actions ripple through the entire web of life, affecting animals, plants, and microorganisms.

In conclusion, the report “Our Future on Earth, 2020” presents a sobering assessment of the challenges facing humanity and the planet. It underscores the need for immediate and comprehensive action to address global risks and protect future generations. The health lens provides a compelling perspective for policymakers to drive sustainable development and safeguard the well-being of all living beings on Earth.


Q1: What are the main global risks identified in the report? A1: The report highlights five main global risks: failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, extreme weather events, major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, food crises, and water crises.

Q2: How do these global risks interact with each other? A2: These risks are interconnected and can exacerbate each other, potentially leading to a worldwide systemic crisis. For example, bushfires, when combined with drought and biodiversity loss, create a more severe environmental challenge.

Q3: What role can technology play in addressing these global risks? A3: Technology has the potential to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and monitor and protect ecosystems. It can contribute to sustainable development and environmental protection.

Q4: Why is a health perspective important in addressing these global challenges? A4: Health offers a sense of urgency and personal connection to these issues. It also highlights the potential health benefits of transitioning to sustainable development.

Q5: How can individuals contribute to addressing these global risks? A5: Individuals can support policies and initiatives that promote sustainability, reduce their carbon footprint, and advocate for climate action. Every small action counts in addressing these challenges.

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