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Planetary Boundaries

April 20, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Carter Dillard for alerting me to this special issue of Nature.

Nature 461, 447-448 (24 September 2009) | doi:10.1038/461447b; Published online 23 September 2009

Earth’s boundaries?

An attempt to quantify the limits of humanity’s load on our planet opens an important debate.
In this issue of Nature, a group of renowned Earth-system and environmental scientists led by Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre sets out to define boundaries for the biophysical processes that determine the Earth’s capacity for self-regulation (see page 472). The framework presented is an attempt to look holistically at how humanity is stressing the entire Earth system. Provocatively, they go beyond the conceptual to suggest numerical boundaries for seven parameters: climate change, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, biodiversity, freshwater use, the global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and change in land use. The authors argue that we must stay within all of these boundaries in order to avoid catastrophic environmental change.

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