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Scientists Make “Most Worrying” Discovery That Earth “Well Outside The Safe Operating Space”
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Scientists Make “Most Worrying” Discovery That Earth “Well Outside The Safe Operating Space”

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Whether triggered by ancient prophecies, modern scientific predictions, or the imaginative landscapes of popular culture, the dread of an impending apocalypse transcends cultural and temporal boundaries.

Only this time, this fear might in fact become a reality. According to a recent analysis conducted by 29 scientists from eight different countries, human activities have brought the world perilously close to critical thresholds across various essential indicators of planetary well-being.

This situation poses a substantial risk of instigating significant alterations in Earth’s environmental conditions.

A recent analysis by 29 scientists warns the world has been pushed to critical planetary boundaries

Image credits: NASA

A TikToker took it upon herself to simplify the worrisome news

Image credits: coyoteannie

In their examination, the scientists assessed nine interconnected “planetary boundaries,” which they categorize as the essential limits that must not be exceeded to maintain a stable and habitable planet.

The report, which was published in the journal Science Advances earlier this month, reveals that human actions have exceeded safe thresholds for six of these boundaries, thereby propelling the world beyond a secure operational range for human existence.

The breached boundaries indicate that Earth’s systems strayed away from the stable conditions of the Holocene era

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Image credits: coyoteannie

The breached boundaries signify that the Earth’s systems have been pushed significantly away from the secure and stable conditions that prevailed from the conclusion of the last ice age roughly 10,000 years ago until the onset of the Industrial Revolution.

This era, known as the Holocene, witnessed the emergence of modern civilization.

Originally introduced in a 2009 paper, these nine boundaries are critical environmental thresholds that, if crossed, could lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes in the Earth’s systems.

All four biological boundaries are at or near their highest risk levels

Image credits: coyoteannie

These boundaries encompass climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change, freshwater use, nitrogen cycle, phosphorus cycle, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, and atmospheric aerosol loading.

According to the scientists, managing these boundaries is crucial for maintaining a stable and sustainable planet.

The ozone layer is the only boundary that remains unthreatened

Image credits: coyoteannie

Nowadays, the sole boundary that remains unthreatened is atmospheric ozone, as concerted efforts in recent decades to eliminate harmful chemicals have resulted in the gradual healing of the ozone hole.

What has been deemed the most alarming discovery by the scientists is that all four of the biological boundaries, which encompass the realm of the living world, are currently at, or perilously near, the highest level of risk.

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Even with just 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming, the world experienced extraordinary summer extreme weather

Image credits: coyoteannie

The living world holds exceptional importance for Earth, as it offers resilience by offsetting certain physical changes, such as trees absorbing carbon dioxide emissions.

Katherine Richardson, one of the report’s co-authors and a professor specializing in biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen, highlighted the extraordinary summer of severe weather that the world recently witnessed with just 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming.

While some planetary boundaries remain within safe limits, ocean acidification and atmospheric levels are concerning

Image credits: coyoteannie

“We didn’t think it was going to be like this at 1 degree [Celsius],” Katherine told CNN. “No human has experienced the conditions that we’re experiencing right now,” she added.

Among the three boundaries that researchers have identified as remaining within safe parameters, two of them, namely ocean acidification and atmospheric aerosol levels, are displaying concerning trends as they deviate from the desired direction.

Scientists have expressed concern for our future

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Image credits: coyoteannie

Nonetheless, there is a silver lining in this scenario. Katherine pointed out that the ozone layer had breached its boundary back in the 1990s. However, due to global efforts and international collaboration in phasing out ozone-depleting substances, the ozone layer is currently on a trajectory towards full recovery.

Exceeding planetary boundaries doesn’t signify an immediate plunge into a catastrophic tipping point, Katherine clarified. Hitting one of these boundaries isn’t akin to suddenly “falling off a cliff.” But, it does serve as an unmistakable cautionary signal.

Image credits: coyoteannie

To illustrate this concept, she drew an analogy with a bank account, where the currency isn’t monetary but rather Earth’s resources, essential for the survival of humanity and all living organisms. As we breach planetary boundaries, she explained, our “bank balance” is steadily decreasing.

Image credits: coyoteannie

She explained: “We can party, even though our money in the bank is getting less – we just can’t party forever.

“That’s the situation that we have brought ourselves into.”

Scientists emphasized the importance of getting back within the safe operating space

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Professor Johan Rockström, the then-director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre who led the team that developed the boundaries framework, told The Guardian: “Science and the world at large are really concerned over all the extreme climate events hitting societies across the planet.

Image credits: coyoteannie

Image credits: coyoteannie

You can watch Annie’s explanatory TikTok below

@coyoteannie #greenscreen ♬ original sound – CoyoteAnnie

Johan went on to say that in order to have security, prosperity and equity for humanity on Earth, “you have to come back into the safe space”.

“We’re not seeing that progress currently in the world,” he added.

Scientists have agreed that essential measures entail the gradual elimination of fossil fuel combustion and the cessation of harmful agricultural practices.

While some people weren’t shocked by the news, others didn’t have the mental strength to listen to it

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Andréa Oldereide

Andréa Oldereide

Writer, BoredPanda staff

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I’m a journalist who works for Bored Panda’s News Team. The team, which has been launched on the website fairly recently, produces stories focused on pop culture. Whenever I get the opportunity and the time, I investigate and produce my own exclusive stories, where I get to explore a wider range of topics. Some examples include: “Doberman Tobias the viral medical service dog” and “The lawyer who brought rare uterine cancer that affects 9/11 victims to light”.

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Andréa Oldereide

Andréa Oldereide

Writer, BoredPanda staff

I’m a journalist who works for Bored Panda’s News Team. The team, which has been launched on the website fairly recently, produces stories focused on pop culture. Whenever I get the opportunity and the time, I investigate and produce my own exclusive stories, where I get to explore a wider range of topics. Some examples include: “Doberman Tobias the viral medical service dog” and “The lawyer who brought rare uterine cancer that affects 9/11 victims to light”.

Kotryna Br

Kotryna Br

Author, BoredPanda staff

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Kotryna is a Photo Editor at Bored Panda with a BA in Graphic Design. Before Bored Panda, she worked as a freelance graphic designer and illiustrator. When not editing, she enjoys working with clay, drawing, playing board games and drinking good tea.

Read less »

Kotryna Br

Kotryna Br

Author, BoredPanda staff

Kotryna is a Photo Editor at Bored Panda with a BA in Graphic Design. Before Bored Panda, she worked as a freelance graphic designer and illiustrator. When not editing, she enjoys working with clay, drawing, playing board games and drinking good tea.

What do you think?
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dbear_63 avatar
aragornjauncey avatar
cerinamroth
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Well, that was my first reaction. It's easy to brush it off as "just another TikToker", but the fact is, she's just summarising what scientists have been saying for decades. The time for civil disobedience has come if you want to be on the right side of history. Democratic avenues just aren't getting us there. Doesn't help to have people like Rishi F*****g Sunak backpedalling and committing climate arson to burn up his children's, and all our children's, futures. F**k him.

Load More Replies...
rosie_7 avatar
Rosie
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is nothing new. We (humans) have been destroying our only home for centuries, especially in the last one. My hope went up when being environmentally conscious became fashionable. Alas, in the last couple of decades things have gone down the drain. Now I think it's hopeless. We don't learn w/o a world-wide disaster & even then. I'm just glad I won't be around for most of it (we're already living w/the consequences of climate change). At 64 & w/chronic cancer, I doubt if I'll make 20 years more, let alone 30. Humans will survive as a species, we're endlessly adaptable, but there will be a whole lot less & their lives will be miserable (by our standards) for generations. I just hope the lesson is passed on, but no, I don't hold much hope for that either.

beab_ avatar
Ample Aardvark
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I agree completely (and I am very sorry for your health, hope you're managing to keep comfortable 💚)

Load More Replies...
momincombatboots03 avatar
Madre_Dr4gnZFly
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

If there is absolutely nothing useful I can do to delay or prevent this, then I won't worry about it. I function on far too little sleep as it is.

Load More Comments
dbear_63 avatar
aragornjauncey avatar
cerinamroth
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Well, that was my first reaction. It's easy to brush it off as "just another TikToker", but the fact is, she's just summarising what scientists have been saying for decades. The time for civil disobedience has come if you want to be on the right side of history. Democratic avenues just aren't getting us there. Doesn't help to have people like Rishi F*****g Sunak backpedalling and committing climate arson to burn up his children's, and all our children's, futures. F**k him.

Load More Replies...
rosie_7 avatar
Rosie
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is nothing new. We (humans) have been destroying our only home for centuries, especially in the last one. My hope went up when being environmentally conscious became fashionable. Alas, in the last couple of decades things have gone down the drain. Now I think it's hopeless. We don't learn w/o a world-wide disaster & even then. I'm just glad I won't be around for most of it (we're already living w/the consequences of climate change). At 64 & w/chronic cancer, I doubt if I'll make 20 years more, let alone 30. Humans will survive as a species, we're endlessly adaptable, but there will be a whole lot less & their lives will be miserable (by our standards) for generations. I just hope the lesson is passed on, but no, I don't hold much hope for that either.

beab_ avatar
Ample Aardvark
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I agree completely (and I am very sorry for your health, hope you're managing to keep comfortable 💚)

Load More Replies...
momincombatboots03 avatar
Madre_Dr4gnZFly
Community Member
9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

If there is absolutely nothing useful I can do to delay or prevent this, then I won't worry about it. I function on far too little sleep as it is.

Load More Comments
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