Griffith Researchers’ Study Shows Humans Are Taking Huge Civilization Risks 2023

Griffith researchers concluded people threaten civilization and all life on Earth.

Global researchers quantified safe and realistic Earth system boundaries for biophysical processes and systems that control it in Nature.

“For the first time, we have assessed safety and justice for humanity on Earth, quantifying some of the key variables regulating life support and Earth system stability,” said Earth Commission member and Australian Rivers Institute Professor Stuart Bunn.

“By incorporating justice—the idea of avoiding significant harm to people across the world—into our assessment of Earth system boundaries, it further tightens human safe operating range for climate, water, biosphere, nutrient use/cycle and pollutants.”

This Earth Commission study says some safe boundaries have been exceeded, making this impossible.

The Anthropocene challenges Earth’s stability and resilience. For the first time, we present quantitative data and a strong scientific methodology to quantify our planet’s health in terms of Earth System stability and resilience, human wellbeing, and equity/justice.”

Prof. Johan Rockström, Earth Commission Co-Chair, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Director, is the lead author.

Safe and just Earth maps

Justice decreases Earthly human space.

Interrupting one biophysical process can have major repercussions on others.

This study uses biophysical criteria to maintain a stable planet for life by setting safe and reasonable earth system boundaries for five primary categories. It also investigates strategies to alleviate Earth system change-related human suffering.

Earth Commission Research Scientist Ben Stewart-Koster, Australian Rivers Institute Senior Research Fellow,
“Safe boundaries ensure stable and resilient conditions on Earth and use an interglacial Holocene-like Earth system as a reference point for a healthy planet,” said Earth Commission staff member and Australian Rivers Institute co-author Dr. Ben Stewart-Koster.

Ecosystems and communities depend on surface and groundwater flows.

Robust Earth’s balanced feedbacks limit disturbances. Modern climatic tipping point science sets limits.

Just limits restrict human exposure to significant damage or irreversible negative effects on countries, communities, and people from Earth system change and ensure minimal resource access.

Safe and Just are the most measurable.

Safety goals are needed beyond climate.

The Paris Agreement seeks 1.5°C global warming. Climate warming has exceeded the safe and tolerable limit of 1°C over pre-industrial temperatures, affecting millions of people.

Science shows that Earth’s various biophysical systems and processes must be regulated for life.

Earth System hotspots. Sub-global climate, functional integrity, surface water, groundwater, nitrogen, phosphorus, and aerosol safe, simply ESBs breached by location.
Human-environment indicators

Biodiversity, freshwater, air, soil, and water pollution have mostly exceeded safe and sustainable limits.

Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute’s Dr. Christopher Ndehedehe
Human activity affects river flows, fertilizer discharges extra nutrients into streams, and natural areas are diminishing.

“Human activities are altering surface water flows, and unsustainable groundwater pumping will lead to rapid declines in groundwater storage, jeopardizing global food security, decreasing ecosystem resilience to drought, and causing the loss of groundwater-dependent ecosystems,” said Griffith University co-author Dr. Christopher Ndehedehe.

These jeopardize a stable world, ecosystems, and people.

The five domains have breached global and local limits, disturbing our health check. Without a timely transition, irreversible tipping points and widespread human well-being are likely. Rockström added, “Avoiding that scenario is crucial if we want a safe and just future for current and future generations.”.

Real science

“The Earth Systems Boundaries need to be translated so businesses, cities, governments, and civil society can understand their share of resources and responsibilities,” said Australian Rivers Institute co-author and Earth Commission staff member Syezlin Hasan.

This would enable actor-specific science-based objectives to address rising human exposure to the climate emergency, biodiversity reduction, water shortages, ecosystem harm from fertiliser abuse in some locations and lack of availability others, and air pollution health impact.

Businesses, communities, and governments will flourish at a period of heightened scrutiny and expectations if they can precisely monitor their resource consumption and environmental impacts and promptly minimize their negative impacts on people and earth. This can aid planet-bound opportunities.

“A safe and just transformation of the planet requires urgent, collective action by actors within governments, cities, and businesses to move us back within Earth system boundaries and keep our planet’s life support system intact,” Professor Bunn said.

This global scientific evaluation offers all stakeholders with scientific bounds to permit successful and equitable world growth on a stable planet, a brighter future for people and planet.

Science informs goals. These can address climate change, biodiversity loss, nutrient overloading, water consumption, and air pollution for cities, companies, and nations. Rockström ends.

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