Call Us Now

+91 9606900005 / 04

For Enquiry

World Crosses Critical Planetary Boundaries: Study Reveals Alarming Trends


A recent study published in the journal Science Advances reveals that the world has exceeded six out of the nine planetary boundaries crucial for preserving Earth’s stability and resilience.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Planetary Boundaries
  2. Key Highlights of the Study: Breached Planetary Boundaries
  3. Way Forward to Address Planetary Boundary Challenges

Planetary Boundaries

  • Proposed in 2009 by Johan Rockström and 28 eminent scientists.
  • A framework to establish safe environmental limits for human activity.
Nine Crucial Planetary Boundaries
  • Climate Change
  • Biosphere Integrity: Involves biodiversity loss and species extinction.
  • Stratospheric Ozone Depletion
  • Ocean Acidification
  • Biogeochemical Flows: Concerning phosphorus and nitrogen cycles.
  • Land-System Change: Includes issues like deforestation.
  • Freshwater Use: Encompasses alterations in the land water cycle.
  • Atmospheric Aerosol Loading: Refers to microscopic atmospheric particles impacting climate and living organisms.
  • Introduction of Novel Entities: Covers substances like microplastics, endocrine disruptors, and organic pollutants.
Consequences of Boundary Breach
  • Breaching these boundaries doesn’t signify immediate catastrophe.
  • However, it escalates the risk of irreversible environmental changes.
  • This, in turn, threatens the Earth’s ability to sustain our current way of life.

Key Highlights of the Study: Breached Planetary Boundaries

  • Climate Change:
    • Safe Boundary: Atmospheric CO2 concentration and radiative forcing set at 350 ppm and 1 Wm−2.
    • Current Status: 417 ppm and 2.91 W m−2.
  • Biosphere Integrity:
    • Safe Boundary: Less than 10 extinctions per million species-years.
    • Current Extinction Rate: Estimated greater than 100 extinctions per million species-years.
    • Threatened Species: Approximately 1 million out of 8 million species are at risk.
    • Genetic Diversity Loss: Over 10% of plant and animal genetic diversity lost in the last 150 years.
  • Land System Change:
    • Safe Boundary: Forested land area > 75%.
    • Current Status: Global forested land area at 60%.
  • Freshwater Change:
    • Safe Boundaries:
      • Blue Water: 10.2%
      • Green Water: 11.1%.
    • Current Status:
      • Blue Water: 18.2%
      • Green Water: 15.8%.
  • Biogeochemical Flows:
    • Safe Boundaries:
      • Phosphorus: 11 Tg.
      • Nitrogen: 62 Tg.
    • Current Status:
      • Phosphorus: 22.6 Tg.
      • Nitrogen: 190 Tg.
  • Novel Entities:
    • Safe Boundary: Zero.
    • Current Status: Human impact on novel entities (e.g., microplastics, endocrine disruptors, organic pollutants) has exceeded the zero boundary.
  • Safe Boundaries:
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion, aerosol loading, and ocean acidification remain within the planetary boundaries.

Way Forward to Address Planetary Boundary Challenges:

  • Biodiversity Conservation:
    • Implement conservation programs aimed at preserving biodiversity, restoring ecosystems, and protecting endangered species and genetic diversity.
  • Circular Economy:
    • Embrace circularity principles to promote resource regeneration, minimize waste, and ensure the continual repurposing of valuable materials instead of discarding them.
  • Waste Management and Pollution Control:
    • Enforce strict regulations on waste disposal, encouraging recycling and reducing pollution from novel entities like microplastics.
  • Community Empowerment:
    • Empower communities to actively engage in sustainable practices, fostering a collective sense of responsibility for environmental stewardship.
  • Climate Mitigation:
    • Prioritize climate mitigation strategies to limit temperature rise and prevent further breaches of planetary boundaries related to climate change.
  • Clean Technologies and Sustainable Transportation:
    • Promote zero-emission technologies and reduce carbon footprints through incentives for clean energy adoption and the adoption of sustainable transportation methods.

-Source: Down To Earth

December 2023