Earth moving outside ‘safe operating space’ for humanity: Report

  • Scientists attributed the changes to human activity
  • It could lead Earth to leave the climate era that gave rise to humanity
  • Researchers called for scientific and policy solutions

This May 18, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows Earth from 36,000 nautical miles away as photographed from the Apollo 10 spacecraft during its trans-lunar journey toward the moon. (NASA via AP)

(NewsNation) — The Earth is operating outside of a “safe operating space for humanity” as it has transgressed six of nine boundaries considered essential for maintaining the stability and resistance of the planet, according to a new report.

Scientists examined the boundaries needed for Earth to remain in a Holocene-like state, which refers to the current epoch. This period began at the end of the last ice age and is the environment that gave way to the evolution of modern civilization.

“The planetary boundaries framework delineates the biophysical and biochemical systems and processes known to regulate the state of the planet within ranges that are historically known and scientifically likely to maintain Earth system stability and life-support systems conducive to the human welfare and societal development experienced during the Holocene,” the report reads.

It’s characterized by relatively stable and warm planetary conditions. However, human activities are moving Earth out of the Holocene environment.

One issue noted in the report is that human impacts on the environment, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, or pollution, are addressed separately rather than looking at the environment as a whole.

Earth’s climate, biodiversity, land, freshwater, nutrient pollution and “novel” chemicals (human-made compounds like microplastics and nuclear waste) are all out of whack, a group of international scientists said in the journal Science Advances. The study said only the acidity of the oceans, the health of the air and the ozone layer are within the boundaries considered safe, and both ocean and air pollution are heading in the wrong direction.

“We are in very bad shape,” said study co-author Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “We show in this analysis that the planet is losing resilience and the patient is sick.”

“The scientific updates and analyses presented here confirm that humanity is today placing unprecedented pressure on Earth system,” the report concluded.

The authors called for more scientific and policy resources to be dedicated to preventing the Earth from further transgressing the boundaries needed to remain in the Holocene state that humanity is familiar with.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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