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Hooton writes: "Humanity has raced past four of the boundaries keeping it hospitable to life, and we're inching close to the remaining five, an Earth resilience strategist has found."

Twenty-five pilot whales beached themselves on Kice Island off southwest Florida in 2014. (photo: Carolina Hidalgo/Naples Daily News/AP)
Twenty-five pilot whales beached themselves on Kice Island off southwest Florida in 2014. (photo: Carolina Hidalgo/Naples Daily News/AP)


The Earth Has Exceeded Four of the Nine Limits for Hospitable Life

By Christopher Hooton, The Independent

17 March 15

 

umanity has raced past four of the boundaries keeping it hospitable to life, and we're inching close to the remaining five, an Earth resilience strategist has found.

In a paper published in Science in January 2015, Johan Rockström argues that we've already screwed up with regards to climate change, extinction of species, addition of phosphorus and nitrogen to the world's ecosystems and deforestation.

We are well within the boundaries for ocean acidification and freshwater use meanwhile, but cutting it fine with regards to emission of poisonous aerosols and stratospheric ozone depletion.

"The planet has been our best friend by buffering our actions and showing its resilience," Rockström said. "But for the first time ever, we might shift the planet from friend to foe."

This table by Ted shows where we're at according to his scale:

Regulations setup to help curb climate change. (photo: Ted)

Regulations setup to help curb climate change. (photo: Ted)

Rockström came up with the boundaries in 2007, and since then the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has risen to around 400 parts per million (the 'safe' boundary being 350 parts per million), risking high temperatures and sea levels, droughts and floods and other catastrophic climate problems.

The research echoes a recent debate over whether the Earth has moved from the Holocene epoch to a new one scientists are calling the Anthropocene, named after the substantial effect mankind has had on the Earth's crust.

It's not all doom and gloom though.

"Ours is a positive, not a doomsday, message," Rockström insisted.

He is confident that we can step back within some of the boundaries, for example through slashing carbon emissions and boosting agricultural yields in Africa to soothe deforestation and biodiversity loss.

"For the first time, we have a framework for growth, for eradicating poverty and hunger, and for improving health," he said.

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+62 # A_Har 2015-03-17 20:53
The scientist in this piece is far more saguine about future prospects than I am. As an older person I have seen political and other entities fail to meet the challenges for decades.

Humanity seems to have attacked the very basis of their own life supports on earth with no end in sight. As to the idea that boosting agricultural yields will make things better--I doubt it. Humans need to get a handle on population growth or all other lines of "progress" fail utterly. The whole growth paradigm has lead to the destruction of the ecosystem, and there are no plans to stop it.
 
 
+7 # HowardMH 2015-03-18 09:34
You guys got it all wrong according to Senator Snowball. Him along with the other idiots on Capital Hill are so going to screw the masses and you see results of some of it above. If the American people don't wake up soon they will be all dead from Politian, etc.
 
 
+40 # Vardoz 2015-03-18 00:12
Greed and the corporate mentality to disregard the consequences of it's actions is leading mankind to our destruction.
 
 
+25 # jsluka 2015-03-18 01:17
I agree A_Har - Rockstrom (the scientist quoted) is unrealistically optimistic. While it is optimistic to know that we could "step back" from the environmental precipice, it is only realistic to also recognise that there is a vey low order of statistical probability that we - that is our governments and industries - will actually do this. The question is really one about politics - will we have the political will to change our destructive course of action or not? It is doubtful, to say the least, that the corrupt oligarchical, capitalist system that now rules our country and the world is going to react in a sane, rational, realistic manner and change voluntarily. If that is the case, it means that resistance is our only hope, and even that appears to be a fleeting one. The resistance is scattered and ineffectual, and I do not see a global revolution in the offing. The most likely prognosis for the future of humankind is terminal civilisation.
 
 
+8 # randi1randi1@yahoo.com 2015-03-18 06:16
What effect does War have on these parameters?
 
 
+5 # waldemar 2015-03-18 06:43
Could someone please explain what seems a conflict to me between the status of #1 (climate change over the limit at more than 400 ppm CO2) and #7 (ocean acidification still within the boundary if CO2 stays below 350 ppm). What am I missing?
 
 
+5 # fredboy 2015-03-18 14:24
Yep. Six more generations of human max. Water world war in 40-50 years. Earth bats last.
 

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