World growth ‘unsustainable’, warns US-based group of museums

The group of museums in its first statement on climate change warns human activity is making preservation of species difficult

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Tuesday 07 October 2014

Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, United States

With climate change becoming more apparent by the day, the Smithsonian Institution, a renowned group of US museums and research centres, has published its first official statement on climate change. The release warns “the world of its unsustainable course” as “the situation is becoming critical for wild species and for the preservation of human civilization”.
“Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities,” reads the statement.

The statement is based on the findings of 500 Smithsonian scientists who have been working around the world to see the impact of a warming planet. “A sample of our investigations includes anthropologists learning from the Yupik people of Alaska, who see warming as a threat to their 4,000-year-old culture; marine biologists tracking the impacts of climate change on delicate corals in tropical waters; and coastal ecologists investigating the many ways climate change is affecting the Chesapeake Bay, says the statement.”

“What we realised at the Smithsonian is that many people think that climate change is just an environmental topic,” says John Kress, acting undersecretary of science at the Smithsonian. “It’s much more than that. Climate change will affect everything.”
The institution has also started an initiative “Living in the Anthropocene” to “expand climate change outside of just science and take Smithsonian resources to look at what other scholars and professionals are doing in various areas with regard to climate change.”

As part of this initiative, the Smithsonian is bringing together some of the US top critical thinkers to offer their perspectives in a symposium on October 9 called “Living in the Anthropocene: Prospects for Climate, Economics, Health, and Security.” The Smithsonian initiative will also examine the health effects that emerge from changing environments and climate, including deaths, disease and trauma. 

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