Yesterday a report summarized in Science, the respected journal, reminded the thinking, semi-conscious world of the same old environment tune for the umnpteenth time — i.e., the earth is not only becoming less and less hospitable, but in the coming decades our once-green planet “could cease to be a ‘safe operating space’ for human beings.” The report explains that we’ve already crossed four “planetary boundaries” — the extinction rate, deforestation, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.
ADD translation: The report basically says that the grim environmental slide is getting steeper and that we’re all shitting the bed faster than previously understood. You thought things seemed bad when An Inconvenient Truth popped eight years ago? Wake up and smell the new brew.
Standout paragraph: “The safe-operating-zone boundary for carbon dioxide had previously been estimated at levels up to 350 parts per million. That’s the boundary — and we’re already past that, with the current levels close to 400 ppm, according to the paper. That puts the planet in the CO2 zone of uncertainty that the authors say extends from 350 to 450 ppm. At the rate CO2 is rising — about 2 ppm per year — we will surpass 450 ppm in just a couple of decades, said Katherine Richardson, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and a co-author of the new paper.
The report could have added that the adult generations of the early 21st Century are the first in world history to ensure that their descendants (particularly their great-grandchildren plus all those who follow) will have to grapple with barely hospitable conditions. A remark from Ray Pierrehumbert, an expert on Earth systems at the University of Chicago, got me in particular. “The trends are toward layering on more and more technology so that we are more and more dependent on our technological systems to live outside these boundaries,” he said. “It becomes more and more like living on a spaceship than living on a planet.”