Earth is halfway to being inhospitable to life, scientist says

21 03 2015

A Swedish scientist claims in a new theory that humanity has exceeded four of the nine limits for keeping the planet hospitable to modern life, while another professor told RT Earth may be seeing an impending human-made extinction of various species.

Environmental science professor Johan Rockstrom, the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, argues that there are nine “planetary boundaries” in a new paper published in Science – and human beings have already crossed four of them.

Those nine include carbon dioxide concentrations, maintaining biodiversity at 90 percent, the use of nitrogen and phosphorous, maintaining 75 percent of original forests, aerosol emissions, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, fresh water use and the dumping of pollutants.

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

Image from ideas.ted.com

Image from ideas.ted.com

Rockstrom’s planetary boundary theory was first conceived in 2007. His new paper reveals that because of climate stability, which began when the Ice Age ended 11,000 years ago, a planetary calm helped our ancestors to cultivate wheat, domesticate animals, and launch industrial and communications revolutions. But those advances have strained the stability of the planet, and Rockstrom says we have broken four boundaries: too much nitrogen has been added to ecosystems, too many forests have been cut down, the climate is changing too quickly and species are going extinct at too great a rate.

Speaking to RT’s Ben Swann, Professor of Ethics Bron Taylor from the University of Florida said that we have accelerated the extinction crisis through deforestation and ocean acidification, a development which is driving species to extinction.

“[Human] beings have increased, even from 1925, from 2 billion – which is considered to be a sustainable population for human beings, according to northern European consumption standards – to 7.2 billion at this point,” he said.

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3 responses

21 03 2015
Anthony William O'brien

It is worse than that.
Biodiversity loss is being measured against an already reduced baseline. We have been destroying stuff since we exploded out of Africa.
We have been cutting down forests at a significant rate since the Romans, even the “Epic of Gilgamesh” talks of the cutting down of trees.
Until very recent times man has not lived in an environment with more than 300 ppm CO2. So 350ppm might not be safe. James Hansen did not say 350ppm was safe, but the highest that might be safe.
Ocean acidity is already having an effect in some areas, so definitely orange.
Continued over use of phosphorous will not be a problem for long, extractable phosphorous is running out. We again will see human urine as a valuable resource.

The population mid century will not be 11 billion, nor will the population end of century be measured in the billions possibly not even in the hundreds of millions. We are in a situation of considerable population overshoot and it will be corrected. Come mid century, the Near Term Human Extinction crowd will not seem that far off the mark.

22 03 2015
philgorman2014

Nailed it Anthony! Plato lamented the denudation of the hills of Classical Greece.

We don’t stand outside nature. There are rules that even we can’t break. Our hubris in not acknowleding that will inevitably bring about Nemesis. Population explosions are followed by collapse as surely as night follows day.

In the 1970’s The Club of Rome was generally ridiculed when they published ‘The Limits to Growth’. The health effects of asbestos have been understood since early last century. The atmospheric effects of releasing geenhouse gasses have been postulated since the century before that.

Corporate greed, obfuscation and propaganda deliberately created public doubt as to the hazards of tobacco smoking from the 1950’s and the same strategies of lies and corruption are being successfully used to create doubt about anthropogenic global warming.

23 03 2015
Mike Cooper

Boundary 7 is already contradicted by boundary 1. Boundary 8 assumes the water is where the population is (look at California). And I don’t know any figures either but I’d say boundary 9 is transgressed too.

Rockstrom continues to peddle ‘hope’ though:

He said nations can cut their carbon emissions to almost nothing and pull the Earth back across the climate boundary. “For the first time,” he said, “we have a framework for growth, for eradicating poverty and hunger, and for improving health.”

No one is going to even flatline economic growth let alone promote degrowth, so there is no way we are going to cut carbon emissions to nothing.

He’s spouting shite, and we’re all fucked.

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