Home Greenhouse Planetary ‘vital signs’ of greenhouse gases, ruminant animals and ice levels, study finds

Planetary ‘vital signs’ of greenhouse gases, ruminant animals and ice levels, study finds


Scientists have been trying to sound the alarm on climate change for decades. The immense work they produced on the subject was apparent in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last report. It was based on the results of over 14,000 peer-reviewed studies and asserted that it is “unequivocal” that current global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

In an attempt to “say it as it is”, thousands of scientists declared that “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency” in 2019. They have developed a set of vital signs that “impact or reflect the health of the planet” and have detailed their trajectories to support this statement. Some scientists recently revisited these indicators in another document that assesses the changes between 2019 and now.

Go in the wrong direction

In an article from Conversation, the authors of the new article Explain that there has been “a lot of discussion and positive engagement from some governments” since 2019. They also noted that there had been progress in terms of divesting from fossil fuels and reducing subsidies for this industry. But they said vital signs “are generally not going in the right direction.”

Greenhouse gas

They pointed out, for example, that the levels of CO2, as well as those of two other greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxide – reached record concentrations in 2020 and 2021. The concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere are fueling global warming. As authors of the article Noted, CO2 reached the “highest global monthly average concentration on record” in April. This record did not last long, however. Global monthly average CO2 concentrations were even higher in May.

Ruminant animals


The authors too underline that ruminants, such as cows and sheep, now number about four billion. This is problematic for the environment because “these animals are responsible for having an impact on biodiversity, releasing enormous amounts of methane emissions, and the land continues to be cleared to make room for them” , said the authors.

Some companies in the animal agriculture sector have tried to position himself as climate-friendly in the face of growing awareness of the impact of industry on the planet. Indeed, a recent Demog investigation found that the meat industry has “developed a multi-pronged public relations strategy” aimed at presenting its business in an environmentally friendly light.

Ice levels

The study further show this ice is disappearing, and fast. He says “glaciers are melting much faster than previously thought; they lose 31% more snow and ice per year than just 15 years ago ”. CNN, for example, reported that on a single day in late July, enough Greenland ice melted to blanket all of Florida in two inch deep water. Ice loss in some areas, such as Greenland and Antarctica, can cause sea level rise. Ice cream too reflects sunlight. So when the ice disappears, we lose a key planetary aid in keeping global temperatures at their lowest.


Deforestation has continued at a steady rate in the Brazilian Amazon over the past two years, the newspaper also Noted. The annual rate of deforestation reaches 1.11 million hectares in 2020, which was a 12-year high. Deforestation is an important issue in connection with climate change. Forests absorb CO2 and increase cloud cover. So, as with ice, when humans destroy forests, they waste a central ally in the fight against rising temperatures.

Indeed, like NOAA Research reported, a study published in July linked deforestation in eastern and southeastern Brazil to lower rainfall and higher temperatures during the dry season. These factors combined are transforming “what was once a forest that absorbed carbon dioxide into a source of carbon dioxide emissions that warm the planet,” NOAA Research said.

Meanwhile, around 80% of terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests. They are therefore also essential for stopping the extinction crisis.

Linked trajectories

One of the vital signs highlighted in the study is gross domestic product (GDP), which is the measure of a country’s economy. Although the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) has caused a drop in global GDP, the study Remarks that “it is now projected to be at an all time high”.

In short, global GDP has generally increased as many aspects of the Earth system descend into catastrophic dismay. These different trajectories are also interconnected. Global GDP is increasing because this is what the predominant economic system – capitalism – demands: constant and endless growth. This perpetual expansion is achieved by treating the Earth as a free and inexhaustible resource and by over-exploiting it, as well as by over-polluting it. The climate and biodiversity crises are the consequence.

Thus, the authors of the study Argue that governments and citizens must “move away from unsustainable ideas of ever-increasing economic consumption and resources” to address these environmental emergencies. They also call for the protection of Earth’s ecosystems, a reduction in meat consumption and “a phase out and eventual ban on fossil fuels”, among others.

It is now

Overall, the planetary vital signs identified by these scientists are not isolated issues, but interconnected issues. In a number of cases, these interrelated problems risk reaching precipices of no return. Scientists refer to irreversible changes such as “tipping points”. In their article from Preservation, the authors of the article to warn that there is “increasing evidence that we are approaching or have already passed the tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system.”

Meaningful action is urgently needed. In fact, such action was necessary yesterday, not tomorrow. It is high time that politicians took seriously the shifting of these planetary vital signs in the right direction.

Sign this petition to demand that all major oil and gas companies now shift to sustainable, green energy production.

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