Planet Earth has 9 security limits and we’ve already exceeded 4 of them

A decade in the past, Johan Rockström recognized the bounds to Earth’s life assist programs. From chemical air pollution to local weather change, we’re veering into the hazard zone – so why is he (cautiously) optimistic concerning the future?


11 September 2019

Humanity’s life-support system, as seen from house


HUMANITY can solely thrive if our planet is hospitable to us, however what are the bounds to its stability? That was the query posed by Johan Rockström in 2009 within the first scientific evaluation of the bounds to protected dwelling for people on Earth. He and 28 co-authors known as them the planetary boundaries. They warned that if we exceed any of these 9 boundaries, we threat destabilising Earth’s life-support programs and plunging the planet into chaos. The excellent news, they mentioned, is that staying inside them offered a “protected working house” for humanity. The dangerous information is that we’ve got already exceeded 4 of them.

The boundaries have drawn loads of criticism, so does Rockström nonetheless stand by the findings? Is he kind of pessimistic about the place we’re headed? And the place do Harley-Davidsons slot in?

Fred Pearce: What’s the backside line for Earth and human civilisation?

Johan Rockström: For the previous 10,000 years, our planet has been in a uniquely secure state, a heat interglacial period with largely unchanging local weather and ecosystems that we name the Holocene. It’s the period throughout which human civilisation has developed, from hunter-gatherers to digital know-how. It’s all we all know.

However humanity is now driving adjustments like world warming and species extinctions. These threaten to push us past the thresholds of the life-support programs which have sustained the Holocene.

The adjustments might be abrupt and irreversible. We don’t know the place issues might find yourself. If the Holocene is our desired reference level – the secure planet we …

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