According to a new study we are on the verge of an environmental tipping point. We are heading towards an imminent, irreversible collapse. The researchers indicate that the planet’s ecosystems could quickly and irreversibly collapse this century. These conclusions were arrived at by 18 scientists using a combination of scientific theories, ecosystem modeling and paleontological evidence.
As reviewed in SFU News Online, these scientists reviewed the Earth’s worsening trends in biodiversity and extreme weather. This was factored in the context of the Earth’s interconnected ecosystems. Their results were contained in an article titled “Approaching a State-Shift in Earth’s Biosphere,” a paper recently published in Nature.
“The last tipping point in Earth’s history occurred about 12,000 years ago when the planet went from being in the age of glaciers, which previously lasted 100,000 years, to being in its current interglacial state,” says Arne Mooers, SFU professor of biodiversity. “Once that tipping point was reached, the most extreme biological changes leading to our current state occurred within only 1,000 years. That’s like going from a baby to an adult state in less than a year. Importantly, the planet is changing even faster now.”
Mooers is one of the paper’s authors. He stresses, “The odds are very high that the next global state change will be extremely disruptive to our civilizations. Remember, we went from being hunter-gatherers to being moon-walkers during one of the most stable and benign periods in all of Earth’s history.
“Once a threshold-induced planetary state-shift occurs, there’s no going back. So, if a system switches to a new state because you’ve added lots of energy, even if you take out the new energy, it won’t revert back to the old system. The planet doesn’t have any memory of the old state.”
According to these scientists once more than half of the Earth’s surface has eroded it will auger a planetary collapse. Through converting landscapes into agricultural and urban areas, we have already reached the 43-percent mark.
“In a nutshell, humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst because the social structures for doing something just aren’t there,” says Mooers. “My colleagues who study climate-induced changes through the earth’s history are more than pretty worried. In fact, some are terrified.”
© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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