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Planet 'well outside the safe operating space for humanity' – scientists

Earlier this week, FaithInvest CEO Dr Lorna Gold wrote a passionately argued case for a radical re-evaluation of the values underpinning our economic decisions to place planet and human well-being at the heart of all we do.

Her argument referenced the warnings of eminent earth scientists that humanity was in danger of breaching at least two of the nine verifiable 'planetary boundaries' necessary for survival. 'We may have, in fact, already implicitly crossed several thresholds,' she said, going on to add: 'There is no money on a dead planet.'

Sombre new warning

Just days after we published her article, those eminent earth scientists released a new, even more alarming warning. Having carried out what they described as 'the first scientific health check for the entire planet', they said the Earth’s life support systems have been so damaged that the planet is 'well outside the safe operating space for humanity'.

Their assessment found that six out of nine planetary boundaries had been broken because of human-caused pollution and destruction of the natural world.

The planetary boundaries are the limits of key global systems – such as climate, water and wildlife diversity – beyond which their ability to maintain a healthy planet is in danger of failing.

Even more urgent

'This latest research is very alarming and means it is even more urgent that we develop an economy attuned to the planet and human well-being,' said Dr Gold. 'We believe that faith communities have a powerful role to play in this – one that will unleash the power of faith as a dynamic force for good.'

The planetary boundaries framework was first developed in 2009 and updated in 2015. It identifies nine processes that are critical for maintaining the stability and resilience of earth systems as a whole. 'All are presently heavily perturbed by human activities,' the scientists said in a paper published in Science Advances journal.

The “most worrying” finding, they said, was that all four of the biological boundaries, which cover the living world, were at, or close to, the highest risk level. The living world is particularly vital to the Earth as it provides resilience by compensating for some physical changes, for example, trees absorbing carbon dioxide pollution.

The broken boundaries mean the systems have been driven far from the safe and stable state that existed from the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, to the start of the industrial revolution.

Six boundaries have been passed and two are judged to be close to being broken: air pollution and ocean acidification. The one boundary that is not threatened is atmospheric ozone, after action to phase out destructive chemicals in recent decades led to the ozone hole shrinking.

Graphic showing the nine planetary boundaries


Read Dr Gold's article

Read the paper, 'Earth beyond six of nine planetary boundaries'


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