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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

December 2019: An interdisciplinary and international coalition of scientists have declared a climate emergency and are calling on decision-makers to act on climate change. The paper sets out clear interventions and identifies energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy, and population size as primary domains for intervention.


11,000 scientists from 153 countries and across disciplines are signatories to a new report declaring a climate emergency. The declaration uses strong and certain language to suggestion policy interventions. The report presents evidence which shows that GHG emissions, per-capita meat production, global tree cover loss, and the number of airplane passengers continue to rise. Despite efforts to reverse these trends, global surface temperature, ocean heat content, extreme weather, sea levels, ocean acidity, and intensity of bush fires are increasing. This global coalition of scientists is calling for urgent action and the end of ‘business as usual’ to avoid ‘untold human suffering’. They advocate for mitigating and adapting to climate change and to transform how global society functions and interacts with ecosystems.

Implications & Opportunities

The declaration heightens the urgency of addressing climate change and sets out areas for decision-makers in policy and business to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. The signatories suggest six primary areas for intervention that impact societies, wellbeing, and biodiversity. In the energy sector, the paper calls for phasing out fossil fuel and introducing subsides for low-carbon renewables. It also calls for cutting emissions such as methane, soot, hydrofluorocarbons and other short-lived climate pollutants from integral components of system-wide transitions. In a similar manner, the paper identifies protecting and restoring ecosystems, promoting dietary shifts towards plant-based diets, transitioning towards zero carbon economies, and stabilising global human populations as key interventions.


The recommendations set out in the paper require adaptation at the local level and should be seen within the context of geographical locations. The paper presents little by way of new recommendations, however, support for certain key interventions by such a diverse and large group of scientist has symbolic significance.


Ripple, W. J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T. M., Barnard, P., & Moomaw, W. R. (2019). World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. BioScience. doi:10.1093/biosci/biz088

The Washington Post. (2019). More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a climate emergency. Retrieved from