The 9 Planet Boundaries

6 are already crossed! would you like to know more about them?

emmanuel delplanque

12/25/20233 min read

The 9 Planet Boundaries

As you can see, six of the nine planetary boundaries are currently exceeding or approaching the safe operating space. This means that we are putting the Earth system at risk of instability and potentially irreversible change.

Here is a more detailed explanation of each planetary boundary:

1️⃣Climate change 🆘

The concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is strongly exceeding the safe operating space. This is causing the Earth's temperature to rise, which is leading to a number of negative impacts, such as more extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and disruptions to ecosystems.

2️⃣Biodiversity loss🆘

The rate of biodiversity loss is moderately exceeding the safe operating space. This is due to a number of factors, including habitat loss, pollution, and overexploitation. Biodiversity loss is a major threat to the Earth's ecosystems, as it can lead to the loss of critical services that these ecosystems provide, such as pollination and water purification.

3️⃣Land-system change🆘

The conversion of natural habitats to agriculture and forestry is moderately exceeding the safe operating space. This is leading to a loss of biodiversity and the degradation of soil quality. Soil degradation can reduce the productivity of agricultural land and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

4️⃣Ocean acidification✴️

The acidity of the oceans is strongly exceeding the safe operating space. This is due to the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere, which reacts with water to form carbonic acid. Ocean acidification is harming marine ecosystems, as it can make it difficult for some organisms to build their shells and skeletons.

5️⃣Novel Entities🆘

Pollution is caused by the introduction of new substances into the environment, such as heavy metals, synthetic organic compounds, and radioactive compounds. Cocktail" effects, i.e. the presence and/or accumulation of several pollutants, make predicting the consequences of a given pollution very tricky. The cumulative effect of several pollutants is often stronger than the simple addition of the individual effects of each pollutant.

Pollution linked to human activities affects all aspects of the environment: air, water (fresh and salt), soil (including permafrost), night, sediments, and living organisms. There are thus different categories of pollution, which can be classified either according to the nature of their pollutants, the environmental compartment affected, or the nature of their effects.

6️⃣Stratospheric ozone depletion✅

The stratospheric ozone layer is safe, thanks to the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs were released into the atmosphere for many years and caused a depletion of the ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

7️⃣Biogeochemical flows🆘

The flows of nitrogen and phosphorus are moderately exceeding the safe operating space. This is due to the use of synthetic fertilizers and the release of wastewater from industrial processes. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus can cause eutrophication, which is the overgrowth of algae in waterways. Eutrophication can lead to a loss of biodiversity and the degradation of water quality.

8️⃣Atmospheric aerosols✅

The concentration of atmospheric aerosols is within the safe operating space. Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere that can have both positive and negative effects on the climate. Some aerosols reflect sunlight back into space, which can cool the Earth. However, other aerosols can absorb sunlight and warm the Earth.

9️⃣Freshwater use🆘

The use of freshwater is approaching the safe operating space. This is due to the growing demand for water for agriculture, industry, and domestic use. Overuse of fresh water can lead to water scarcity, which can have a devastating impact on ecosystems and human health.

It is important to note that these are just the current estimates of the state of the planetary boundaries. The boundaries are dynamic, and they can change over time due to human activities and natural processes. It is therefore crucial to continue to monitor the state of the boundaries and take action to protect them.

#climatechange #sustainability #limitedresources