Safe Planetary Boundaries

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Stockholm Resilience Centre:

"Transgressing planetary boundaries may be devastating for humanity, but if we respect them we have a bright future for centuries ahead.

The group of scientists including Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Will Steffen, Katherine Richardson, Jonathan Foley and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, have attempted to quantify the safe biophysical boundaries outside which, they believe, the Earth System cannot function in a stable state, the state in which human civilizations have thrived.

The scientists first identified the Earth System processes and potential biophysical thresholds, which, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental change for humanity. They then proposed the boundaries that should be respected in order to reduce the risk of crossing these thresholds.

The Nine boundaries identified were:

  • climate change
  • stratospheric ozone
  • land use change
  • freshwater use
  • biological diversity
  • ocean acidification
  • nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans
  • aerosol loading
  • chemical pollution.

The study suggests that three of these boundaries (climate change, biological diversity and nitrogen input to the biosphere) may already have been transgressed. In addition, it emphasizes that the boundaries are strongly connected — crossing one boundary may seriously threaten the ability to stay within safe levels of the others." (

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    1. See also video with Professor Foley, explaining the boundaries and the importance of not transgressing them. Via [2]