Earth is ‘really quite sick now’ and in danger zone in nearly all ecological ways, study says – DNyuz

Earth is ‘really quite sick now’ and in danger zone in nearly all ecological ways, study says

Earth has pushed past seven out of eight scientifically established safety limits and into “the danger zone,” not just for an overheating planet that’s losing its natural areas, but for well-being of people living on it, according to a new study.

The study examines not only guardrails to protect the planet’s ecosystem, but also measures for “justice,” mainly preventing harm caused by countries, ethnicities, and genders.

The Earth Commission study published Wednesday in Nature journal examines climate change, air pollution and phosphorus-nitrogen contamination of groundwater and fresh surface waters from overuse of fertilizers. It also looks at the natural unbuilt environment, and overall human and natural built environment. Only air pollution wasn’t quite at the danger point globally.

According to the Swedish study, air pollution was dangerous on a local or regional level, but climate change did not reach the danger levels that humans can tolerate in large groups, nor the guidelines for safety for the entire planet.

The study identified “hotspots”, or problem areas, in Eastern Europe, South Asia and Southeast Asia as well as parts of Africa, Brazil, Mexico and China, and a large part of U.S. West. This was largely due to climate change. Scientists cite an example where two thirds of Earth do not meet criteria for safe freshwater.

“We are in a danger zone for most of the Earth system boundaries,” said study co-author Kristie Ebi, a professor of climate and public health at the University of Washington.

If planet Earth just got an annual check-up, similar to a person’s physical, “our doctor would say that the Earth is really quite sick right now and it is sick in terms of many different areas or systems and this sickness is also affecting the people living on Earth,” Earth Commission co-chair Joyeeta Gupta, a professor of environment at the University of Amsterdam, said at a press conference.

This is not a fatal diagnosis. The planet can recover if it changes, including its use of coal, oil and natural gas and the way it treats the land and water, the scientists said.

But, “we’re moving in the opposite direction” on all these issues. This was the conclusion of study author Johan Rockstrom of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“This paper is provocative and compelling – scientifically sound and useful for identifying the areas where the Earth is on the verge of irreversible boundaries. Indy Burke is the dean of the Yale School of the Environment. She wasn’t part of the study.

The team of about 40 scientists created quantifiable boundaries for each environmental category, both for what’s safe for the planet and for the point at which it becomes harmful for groups of people, which the researchers termed a justice issue.

Rockstrom said he thinks of those points as setting up “a safety fence” outside of which the risks become higher, but not necessarily fatal.

Rockstrom and other scientists have attempted in the past this type of holistic measuring of Earth’s various interlocking ecosystems. This attempt was different because scientists added justice and looked at the local and regional level.

The justice part includes fairness between young and old generations, different nations and even different species. Frequently, it applies to conditions that harm people more than the planet.

Climate change is a good example.

The report uses the same boundary of 1. 5 degree Celsius (2. 7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times that international leaders agreed upon in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The world has so far warmed about 1. 1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit), so it hasn’t crossed that safety fence, Rockstrom and Gupta said, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t being hurt.

“What we are trying to show through our paper is that event at 1 degree Centigrade (1. 8 degrees Fahrenheit) there is a huge amount of damage taking place,” Gupta said, pointing to tens of millions of people exposed to extreme hot temperatures.

The planetary safety guardrail of 1. 5 degrees hasn’t been breached, but the “just” boundary where people are hurt of 1 degree has been.

“Sustainability and justice are inseparable,” said Stanford environmental studies chief Chris Field, who wasn’t part of the research. “I would like even stricter boundaries,” he said. “Unsafe conditions do not need to cover a large fraction of Earth’s area to be unacceptable, especially if the unsafe conditions are concentrated in and near poor and vulnerable communities.”

Another outside expert, Dr. Lynn Goldman, an environment health professor and dean of George Washington University’s public health school, said the study was “kind of bold,” but she wasn’t optimistic that it would result in much action.


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