Kitchener-Waterloo

Guelph, Laurier professors among 11K scientists to sign global climate emergency letter

Local professors have joined 11,000 scientists from around the world in signing a letter published Tuesday morning declaring a climate emergency.

'This is something our children are going to have to deal with,' Guelph professor says

People chanted and waved homemade signs as they gathered in uptown Waterloo in September for a demonstration as part of the Global Climate Strike. Scientists from Guelph and Waterloo were among 11,000 scientists who signed a letter, released Tuesday, declaring a climate emergency and laying out six areas where immediate steps need to be taken to slow climate-change effects. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

At least five local professors have joined 11,000 scientists around the world in signing letter that declares a global climate emergency.

The letter, from the Alliance of World Scientists, lays out trends that show climate change effects and six areas where immediate steps are needed. 

Local professors who signed the letter include Christopher Lemieux from Wilfrid Laurier University, as well as four University of Guelph professors: Asim Biswas, Elizabeth Boulding, Kevin McCann and Patricia Wright.

Boulding is a professor in the department of integrative biology and works in the rocky intertidal zone — the area on a shore between the high tidal mark and low tidal mark. She says in her life growing up in Campbell River, B.C., and through her research, she's seen changes to tidal zones "which are very frightening."

"As I told one of my cousins, I don't need to believe what other people write or publish necessarily because I have, through my own studies, I've seen changes and it's just astounding that we should see such large changes during our lifetime," Boulding said.

"It makes me very frightened about how the next generation, my students and my family, are going to manage if something isn't done very quickly."

Boulding says she thinks it's significant so many scientists have signed the letter.

"I really believe that if you're looking for people who are unbiased, who don't have an agenda but are genuinely concerned through their own research what they're seeing themselves, that the average Canadian should listen hard to what we're saying," she said.

"This is a danger that isn't something that's going to happen to our great grandchildren. This is something our children are going to have to deal with."

Authors hope to reach wide audience

In a declaration published Tuesday in the journal BioScience, the scientists put forth six "critical and interrelated steps" that governments and policy-makers should take into account in order to reduce the effects of climate change. The recommendations include:

  • Energy.
  • Short-lived pollutants.
  • Nature.
  • Food.
  • Economy.
  • Population.

The co-author of the letter is William Ripple, a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University. He told CBC the goal of the letter is to be "extremely brief and easy to understand, so we get a wide readership of the paper."

'There's no plan B'

Biswas, a soil scientist at the University of Guelph, says the way the climate is changing and the impact on soil is of great concern. He says his passion for his research was spuured by growing up on a farm and seeing research in the early 1990s that sounded alarm bells over climate change.

"We really need to think about our soil. There's no plan B," Biswas said. "I'm thinking locally, but it has a global implication."

He said scientists don't always get the message about their research across to governments or even the general public, so signing a letter like this one shows he agrees with the declaration and it's what his research is also telling him.

"What is our target? [It's] to kind of shake it up a little bit more so that people start to listen, people start to think about it," Biswas said.

With files from Nicole Mortillaro

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