An international team of 30 scientists have determined from extensive research that there are nine factors of tremendous importance that must remain within certain limits if the Earth is to dodge environmental catastrophe. The nine factors, as determined by the group, are biodiversity loss, land use, freshwater use, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, stratospheric ozone, ocean acidification, climate change, chemical pollution, and aerosol loading in the atmosphere.
Amid some controversy, the group has set numeric limits for seven of the nine so far (chemical pollution and aerosol loading are still being pinned down). And the researchers have determined that the world has already crossed the boundary in three cases: biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle and climate change.
Jon Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, and a leader of the group, lays out the limits and their implications for human action in an article in Scientific American’s April issue.
He also discusses the issues in a podcast with our own Steve Mirsky.
Foley’s team was so moved by the research effort that it put together a compelling video (see below) dramatizing the situation, generated entirely with typography, graphics and energizing music.