Credit Oliver Day, Oregon State University

Scientists' warning to humanity 'most talked-about paper'

8 March 2018
A report on the Earth's health, 25 years after an initial scientists' warning to humanity signed by the majority of Nobel Laureates, is generating unprecedented attention and inspiring academics, politicians and the public.
There are critical environmental limits to economic growth.
The authors state

BC Legislature speech

Twenty-five years after the first "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity", a new report is continuing to gain momentum and is already one of the most talked about papers globally.

The paper’s Altmetric of about 7100 is gaining ground on the top paper for 2016 – former United States President Barack Obama’s review of the healthcare system – which accumulated a score of 8063 in four months; most of the top 100 of all time have an Altmetric below 6000.

Altmetric, which records data complementary to traditional citation-based metrics, shows the paper now has a cumulative rank of 6th most talked about ever worldwide out of more than nine million research outputs. Altmetric began tracking attention to research more than six years ago across various sources – such as news, Wikipedia, Facebook and policy documents.

The paper, "World scientists’ warning to humanity: A second notice", immediately made global headlines including on CNN, BBC, Fox News and Page 1 of France’s leading newspaper Le Monde. Since publishing less than four months ago, it has prompted speeches about the research in Israel’s Knesset and Canada’s BC Legislature, with signatories increasing with the specially formed Alliance of World Scientists.

The latest translation includes Polish, with universities set to discuss the recommendations later this month and a push for city-wide implementation in Silesia.

Co-author at the University of Sydney Dr Thomas Newsome, has helped the report go viral via Twitter, where the research prompted almost 9,000 Tweets.

Three letters in comment, as well as a response companion piece by the Warning authors published today in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience.

The response piece, “Role of Scientists’ Warning in shifting policy from growth to conservation economy”, highlights two key areas for action in policy and science:

  1. Nobel Prize in Economics incorporating the limits of the biosphere – The Economic Sciences Prize Committee should give greater weight to externalised environmental limits.
  2. Carbon pricing globally – already implemented or planned by some 42 countries and 25 states, provinces and cities but there is an urgent need for higher carbon prices.

“There are critical environmental limits to resource-dependent economic growth,” the authors state.

Humanity's second notice

The “second notice” warning paper has received an additional 4,500+ endorsements by scientists since it published in November 2017. There are now approximately 20,000 expert endorsements and/or co-signatories to the paper online; signatures and donations are encouraged at Updates continue from co-author @NewsomeTM on Twitter.

The “second notice” clearly charts the environmental degradation in the past quarter-century and notes that only one out of nine areas assessed, the ozone layer, has improved.


Co-author Dr Newsome in Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences has published a number of papers on endangered animals and specialises in apex predators; he collaborates frequently with lead author of the current paper at Oregon State University, Professor William Ripple, an ecologist who was becoming increasingly concerned about climate change when he came across a copy of the initial “World scientists’ warning to humanity”. Professor Ripple said after reading the initial report, he realised that because things had become worse it was time for an update.

Vivienne Reiner

PhD Candidate and Casual Academic
  • Integrated Sustainability Analysis,

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