Impending catastrophe : Earth on the brink


This is the most important news you’ll read this week. Forget about whatever happened in this weekend’s elections in Greece, Egypts or France. Economies may crash but can recover with time. It’s not the case with the environment.

To Nature : ”  the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence.

Both Climate Progress and Grist wrote compelling articles on this new study that should have grabbed everybody’s attention. But well, it didn’t…

Here is an extract of Climate Progress :

A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature.

“The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”

The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Here is David Robert’s take on this for Grist :

As examples of past global state shifts, the authors cite the Cambrian explosion (“a conversion of the global ecosystem from one based almost solely on microbes to one based on complex, multicellular life,” which took a comparatively brief 30 million years), the Big Five mass extinctions, and the last glacial-interglacial transition, which started about 14 thousand years ago.

The difference today is that human beings are generating “forcings” (influences on biophysical systems) of unprecedented power at an unprecedented rate. These forcings include “human population growth with attendant resource consumption, habitat transformation and fragmentation, energy production and consumption, and climate change.”

The authors emphasize that all these forcings “far exceed, in both rate and magnitude, the forcings evident at the most recent global-scale state shift, the last glacial-interglacial transition.”

Here is a video that was included in both articles :

Let’s hope our Representatives assembled in Rio will actually do something about all this. This might be our last hope…

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