Planetary boundaries

A new paper updates research on the nine planetary boundaries (limits to the earth’s capacity to cope) identified by the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Four of these boundaries have already been surpassed (overshot) according to the SRC Director Johan Rockstrom in this article from the TED website. The four overshot boundaries are:

1. Climate change

2. Biodiversity loss & species extinction

3. Nitrogen and phosphorous added to ecosystems by humans

4. Deforestation and other land use changes

Rockström conceived of the idea of planetary boundaries back in 2007, and published his first landmark paper on the topic in 2009. The new paper digs far deeper. A key underlying assumption is that the extraordinary climate stability of the Holocene Epoch, which began when the last Ice Age ended 11,000 years ago, has been crucial to human development. This period of planetary calm enabled our ancestors to emerge from their Paleolithic caves to cultivate wheat, domesticate animals, and launch industrial and communications revolutions. As a result, the world now has 7.2 billion people—and almost that many cell phones.

Also contributing to the crossing of environmental boundaries, particularly biodiversity loss and species extinction is environmental crime.

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