We have brought the Earth to a state where its habitability is threatened

If we want security, prosperity and justice for the people of the world, we must return to a safe space within planetary boundaries. Photo by Eduardo Soteras, AFP

An international collective of scientists published in the academic journal Science studied about the current state of the planetary system, in which he states that six of the nine stabilization mechanisms, the so-called planetary boundaries, have been exceeded due to the impact of human activities, whereby the planet Earth is moving beyond safe conditions for the existence of human civilization. The conclusions of this study were also confirmed by a later one research published in the journal Nature.

Endangering the conditions suitable for human society

The starting point of the research is the so-called Holocene normal. The Holocene is a geological period of planet Earth lasting almost ten thousand years and characterized by stable climatic conditions that supported the emergence of agriculture and the growth of human civilization. According to the study, this stable and friendly environment for human societies is maintained by nine planetary processes.

These include, for example, changes in the soil, the water cycle, ocean acidification, species extinction, contamination of the planet with man-made materials such as nuclear waste or genetically modified organisms. If humanity remained within the limits of the Holocene normal, favorable conditions for life would continue.

However, if these processes exceed certain limits, the Earth’s climate system will become unstable and difficult to predict. And above all, very different from the one that made human civilization possible. “Therefore, it is in the vital interest of humanity that there is no fundamental change in the Earth’s climatic conditions,” the study states.

An example of such a fundamental change in the functioning of the entire climate system can be the disruption of forest ecosystems. For millennia, the rainforests and boreal forests, along with the temperate forest, formed a key stabilizing mechanism that supported a stable planetary system. However, as a result of deforestation and wild fires caused by climate change, forests are no longer sufficient to fulfill their role.

Continued deforestation could make it no longer possible to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, increasing further negative pressures on the planetary system. However, if, on the other hand, it were possible to restore afforestation, according to the authors of the study, around the year 2100, this can significantly contribute to the capture of a decisive amount of greenhouse gases, which could stabilize the entire system again.

We have already crossed six of the nine planetary limits. Stockholm Resilience Center graph on X

From the Holocene to the Anthropocene

Scientists are also talking about the arrival of a new geological period, the so-called Anthropocene. Indeed, according to the findings of the study, human activity has already reached such dimensions that humans can be considered a significant geological force that can — similarly to volcanic activity or the impacts of space bodies — transform the entire earth’s climate system and deviate it in such a way that the favorable conditions for the functioning of human beings will be threatened companies.

One of the members of the scientific team, Professor Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen she declared: “We know for certain what mankind can create under the climatic conditions that have prevailed here for ten thousand years, but we do not know what mankind can create under such a large human-induced change in the earth system.”

According to the study, the first significant crossing of these boundaries occurred in the second half of the 1980s. If it were possible to reduce the effects of human activity to the level of the end of the 80s, the planetary system could still be kept within friendly limits for humanity. One of the leaders of the scientific team, Professor Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact Research confirmed, that “if we want security, prosperity and justice for the people of the world, we must return to a safe space within planetary boundaries. Unfortunately, we do not see such a development in the world.”

According to Simon Lewis of University College London, who was not part of the research team, the study is further evidence of how alarming the current situation is. According to him, there can be no stronger call for deep structural changes than the research of planetary boundaries. Lewis also points to the dangers of pro-growth policies that promise to keep warming below 1.6 degrees Celsius. Such policies, according to Lewis, “help the rich and ignore the poor.”

According to Lewis, keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era, which is a pillar of the Paris climate agreement and guarantees keeping the planet within human-friendly limits, is a goal from which we must not retreat.

Source: Deník referendum by denikreferendum.cz.

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