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U of T researchers sign on to call for action on climate change

Steam and exhaust rise from a chemical company and a coking plant, which converts coal in Germany. Greenhouse gas emissions are a key cause of global warming and climate change (photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

U of T researchers from a variety of backgrounds are among the more than 15,000 scientists from around the world who have signed onto a recent call to action on climate change.

Earlier this month, scientists from 184 countries published a letter in the journal BioScience, offering suggestions such as establishing nature reserves, reducing food waste, developing green technologies and establishing economic incentives to change consumption habits. 

U of T faculty and staff who signed onto the letter include 28 affiliated researchers, many from the Faculty of Arts & Science, from fields like evolutionary biology, forestry, biochemistry, health policy, mathematics and medicine. 

The initiative marks the 25th anniversary of a previous warning to humanity on climate change. In 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world signed onto a letter stating that humans were contributing to the destruction of the Earth's ecosystems with ozone depletion, air and water pollution, decline of fisheries, loss of soil productivity, deforestation and species loss.

But today, not much has changed, say scientists in the BioScience letter.

Read more at the Washington Post

Led by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, the Alliance of World Scientists wrote in the letter that, “Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

U of T nutritional scientist, University Professor David Jenkins, says climate change affects almost all fields of research. The creator of the glycemic index points to greenhouse gas emissions generated by the beef and dairy industries. One change should be in our diets, with us moving toward a more plant based diet, he said.

“It's one of the things that we do that's very resource dependant and environmentally dependant,” Jenkins said in an interview with U of T News. “I realized that my own discipline was not out of the woods. We along with mining and engineering and car manufacturing have to take some of the responsibility for the warming temperature.”

Researchers in his lab are now putting together a table of foods and greenhouse gas emissions, assessing diets for their impact on the environment.

“You can't help but wonder what's going to happen if we don't actualy take some radical steps to change,” Jenkins said.