According to the Earth Commission’s latest report, human activity is finding the world on the dangerous edge in most indicators of planetary safety. Scientists believe that Earth’s ecosystems will soon be unable to remain in a stable state.
The report presents a set of “safe and fair” benchmarks against which the state of the planet is judged. They include climate, water resources, the nutrient content of the earth, the state of the air, biosphere, ice, and soils, as well as carbon cycles and other interrelated processes.
According to scientists, the planet is already facing a climate crisis, growing water scarcity, imbalances in nutrient distribution, ecosystem instability, and aerosol pollution of the atmosphere. Taken together, these factors threaten global life support systems and worsen social inequalities in society.
One of the study’s lead authors, Professor Johan Rockström, called the report an attempt to conduct an interdisciplinary scientific assessment of the human-planet system. He also noted that we have reached a saturation point where we reach the ceiling of the biophysical capacity of the Earth system to remain stable. We are approaching tipping points, we are seeing more and more irreversible damage to life support systems on a global scale.
The Earth Commission listed the discrepancies between current and normal Earth health indicators. The experts called the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5-2 ° C insufficient, noting that many people have already been severely affected by extreme heat, droughts and floods. Scientists called the limit of 1 °C a safe boundary, although the current warming of the atmosphere has already reached 1.2 °C.
Another problem was aerosol air pollution, worsened by exhaust fumes, industrial and power plant emissions. The report focuses on minimizing the imbalance of aerosol concentrations between the northern and southern hemispheres, which can disrupt the rainy season and affect weather patterns.
The next issue is related to surface water shortages. To solve the problem, scientists suggest reducing watershed pressures so that no more than 20 percent of the world’s river and stream flows are held back by dams and levees. Today the safe limit of runoff is exceeded on one-third of the Earth’s land mass by hydroelectric dams, drainage systems and other structures. As a result, 47% of the Earth’s river basins are being depleted at an alarming rate.
Nutrients have also become a problem, as farmers spray more nitrogen and phosphorus than plants and soil can absorb. This saturates water bodies with fertilizer, which then suffocates with algae blooms that harm aquatic life and human health. Scientists suggest that the problem should be solved by a more equitable distribution of fertilizer between poor and rich countries. No more than 61 million tons of nitrogen and about 6 million tons of phosphorus should be used annually to restore the balance in the world.
The Earth Commission report stresses that time for action is limited and if we do not act, we will face global catastrophes. The international community must unite to protect our planet and secure its future.