The Earth Commission, a group of 51 scientists among the world’s leading research institutions, published a study in Nature that found the planet is failing seven out of eight “planetary boundaries,” or safety limits for environmental and human well-being. These metrics include climate and aerosol pollution, but also access to freshwater and measures of justice, meaning how the globe is treating countries, ethnicities and genders. Co-author Johan Rockström told the Guardian, “we have reached what I call a saturation point where we hit the ceiling of the biophysical capacity of the Earth system to remain in its stable state.
We are approaching tipping points, we are seeing more and more permanent damage of life-support systems at the global scale.” The study found problem “hotspots” across the globe, including in the US West, much of them stemming from climate change. The concept of planetary boundaries has been used in academic and policy arenas since 2009, but has been subject to criticism from scientists who argue it oversimplifies a complex system, or could spread political will too thinly. (AP, The Guardian, Carbon Brief, CNN, Bloomberg $)