April 21, 2024

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The Earth Commission report says the planet has breached 7 out of 8 safe boundaries

A team of leading scientists says it has assessed the health of the planet against eight key thresholds necessary to protect life on Earth and that human activities have resulted in seven of the eight boundaries being breached already.

“The window is closing fast; we are very close to irreversible tipping points,” Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and lead author A study published this weekHe said in a phone interview. Rockstrom has been described The report, as the first time that measurable boundaries have been presented in this way to “assess the state of our planet’s health,” measures not only the stability of Earth’s ecosystems, but also human well-being and equity.

The research by the Earth Commission, a team of dozens of scientists representing leading global research institutions, said the eight areas measured were: climate change; aerosols (air pollution); Surface of the water; underground water; nitrogen fertilizer phosphorus fertilizer whether natural ecosystems have remained largely intact; and functional integrity of all environmental systems.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Nature, assessed each region against two thresholds: whether it remained “safe” — that is, within the levels required for Earth’s systems to be able to support humans and other organisms — and whether the levels could be guaranteed Justice between species, current and future generations, and between countries and communities.

It defined “just” limits as limits that reduce “vulnerability to significant harm” — including “significant loss of life, livelihood and income, loss of access to nature’s contributions to people, loss of land, chronic disease, injury, malnutrition, and displacement” — countries, communities or individuals. In some areas, including groundwater and surface water thresholds, the “safe” and “fair” thresholds are the same, while for others the “fair” threshold is more stringent than the “safe” threshold.

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Scholars description The eight limits are defined as “strict limits”.

“Even a temporary crossing of some limits can permanently damage critical systems of the planet, and cause irreparable harm to life,” they wrote.

Across all regions, the situation was “extremely worrying,” Rockstrom saidPointing out that the effects of breaching these limits are already visible.

“We are exposed to more extreme events, more droughts, more floods, more food insecurity, more ecosystem collapse, then the loss of fish stocks and the destruction of coral reef systems, the livelihoods of about 500 million people,” he said, citing the devastating floods in Pakistan last year “as an example of being outside a safe and just climate.”

A journey into Pakistan’s flood zone reveals how hard the poorest have been affected

The success in setting limits to climate change demonstrated the need for similar targets for other factors affecting the health of the planet, according to Rockström — and the eight indicators were “designed as far as possible to be actionable at the local level.”

The report said that Earth had already exceeded both safe and fair limits in most of the areas it measured: Surface of the water Flows have been significantly altered, causing damage to ecosystems and groundwater It is consumed more quickly than it can replace and nitrogen and phosphorous Fertilizers, with their harmful effects on water and air pollution, have been used at levels far above what is recommended.

The boundaries of the biosphere have also been breached The percentage of the world’s remaining natural ecosystems, in natural areas and functioning landscapes, below levels needed to protect humans and other species, The report said.

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For climate change, the planet has crossed fair, but not safe, limits — meaning a 1°C (1.8°F) warming from pre-industrial levels has been breached and harmed human life, but hasn’t. Yet threaten the stability of the planets. The report set a safe limit for climate change at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels – the goal of the Paris climate agreement. However, a United Nations report warned in March that the world is likely to exceed that number early in the next decade.

Aerosols were the only area where no breach of safe or fair measures occurred – although the panel warned that “areas of high air pollution remained” and that “no level of air pollution can be considered completely safe from a health perspective”. He also noted the potential impact of air pollution in one hemisphere on precipitation and monsoons in the other, as well as the “significant harm” to human health, including respiratory and heart problems and premature death.

The United Nations report on climate change says the world is on the brink of catastrophic global warming

Despite the troubling findings, the scientists are keen to stress that it’s not too late for the planet, and they hope their report will spur governments and companies to make changes.

“There is also a lot of evidence that if we reduce the pressure and really start to regenerate and manage nature, particularly the transition to sustainable food systems, we can rebuild the capacity of these systems to both stabilize the climate and also to provide good livelihoods,” Rockstrom said. “So, in general, we see here the potential for a reverse shift, but it has to go very, very quickly.”

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While the Earth Commission report focuses on global initiatives, experts say there are also practical steps individuals can take to help address some of the threats facing the planet, including changing eating and shopping habits, and adopting renewable energy and public transportation.