Water, land, air, life: what is a safe environmental operating space for humanity?

Sorry guys, sorting out climate change is just the start. Their success in influencing climate change policy (if not practice) seems to have emboldened earth system scientists to initiate a wider debate about the earth’s limits. A recent issue of Nature journal tries to establish the ecological ‘operating space’ for humans, and could spark off some pretty interesting debates over the coming months.

‘We have tried to identify the Earth-system processes and associated

The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded
The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded

thresholds which, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental change. We have found nine such processes for which we believe it is necessary to define planetary boundaries: climate change; rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine); interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; global freshwater use; change in land use; chemical pollution; and atmospheric aerosol loading (see Fig. 1 and Table).

Nature tableTheir conclusion? ‘Humanity may soon be approaching the boundaries for global freshwater use, change in land use, ocean acidification and interference with the global phosphorous cycle. Our analysis suggests that three of the Earth-system processes — climate change, rate of biodiversity loss and interference with the nitrogen cycle — have already transgressed their boundaries.’

Oops.

[h/t Steve Jennings]

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Comments

2 Responses to “Water, land, air, life: what is a safe environmental operating space for humanity?”
  1. GCAntunes

    There are 9 Earth system processes that are or have already exceeded capacity. What implication does this draw for policy makers? What about Kyoto? Should there be a separate Kyoto drafted for each of the other 8 processes? And who will take leadership? Will it be a Sen. Kerry-esce type leadership, a non-governmental entity or a country itself? It is even necessary that a nation itself take leadership or will the global community respond to this crisis the way stateless entities take on a “leadership” like role in influencing people’s lives?

  2. Climate change has been very al;arming. Many factors can be attributed to the weather change that we experience. However, as a resident of this planet, we should also take part in saving Mother Nature. As Mother Theresa once said, we cannot do great things, only small things with great love. This >ahref=”http://www.fotofan.dk/digitalkameraer/spejlreflekskamera/”>Spejlreflekskamera also encourage us to do the same.

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