Earth is exceeding its “safe operating space for humanity” in six of nine key indicators of its health, with two of the remaining three heading in the wrong direction, a new study said.
The planetary boundaries framework update published in ScienceAdvances found that six of the nine boundaries are transgressed, suggesting that Earth is now well outside of the safe operating space for humanity.
The journal reported that: “Ocean acidification is close to being breached, while aerosol loading regionally exceeds the boundary. Stratospheric ozone levels have slightly recovered.
“The transgression level has increased for all boundaries earlier identified as overstepped.
“As primary production drives Earth system biosphere functions, human appropriation of net primary production is proposed as a control variable for functional biosphere integrity. This boundary is also transgressed.
“Earth system modelling of different levels of the transgression of the climate and land system change boundaries illustrates that these anthropogenic impacts on Earth system must be considered in a systemic context,” reported the journal.
Earth’s climate, biodiversity, land, freshwater, nutrient pollution and novel chemicals not found in nature such as plastics and nuclear waste, have all passed the boundary beyond which there is an increasing risk of systemic collapse.
Air and sea pollution are both increasing, though considered within the safe zone for now, while only ozone depletion of all the indicators is heading in the right direction, recovering after the global ban on CFCs in 2010.
Each of these systems affected by anthropogenic activities are known to be interdependent, although quantifying that is proving challenging. However, using computer simulations, it appears that making one factor worse causes others to degrade, while mitigating one can help others to recover.