On breaking news: 4 planetary boundaries now crossed!

Human activity on the environment has tremendously increased within the two centuries that have passed since the age of industrialization, altering earth system processes to beyond recognition of what has been known for billions of years.

It is for this purpose that planetary boundaries have been established—to inform and guide mankind of the natural thresholds and the ways by which humanity can continue to thrive whilst living sustainably.

Such tipping points must not be met as transgression puts forth the risk of triggering non-linear rates of change–several of which, it is important to note, are irreversible. To add is the multi-faceted nature of ecological alteration—an influence on one boundary is likely to affect mankind’s position in terms of another boundary.

The nine planetary boundaries, as debated and discovered to be in need of utmost attention, are as follows with their current status also being shown.


(c) TedX

As of January 16 of this year, four out of the nine boundaries have already been transgressed.

Meanwhile, for cross-comparison of all nine boundaries, check the figure below. To zoom, simply click on the image and bring it to the address bar.


(c) The Carbon Brief

It should be noted that these transgressions are not a result of natural variability. While Earth system processes do come with extreme events (e.g., the Ice Age), such phenomena were occasional and not increasing in manner. Instead, the causes of these transgressions are anthropogenic in nature.

As validated through systems modeling, the present conditions of let’s say warming temperature do not match the natural rate of greenhouse effect present in the atmosphere but rather the continuous and exponential rise of greenhouse emissions from human activity—mostly from energy supply production.

These being said, with men at the core of the problem and also being subject to the very consequences thereof, there lies the question of how we should strategically respond to such issues.

In this regard, environmental scientists have found it important for nations to understand and incorporate the concept of risk management in their sustainable development goals. See next post for more details.


“Planetary Boundaries 2.0 – New and Improved.” Stockholm Resilience Centre. Stockholm University, Jan. 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/research-news/1-15-2015-planetary-boundaries-2.0—new-and-improved.html

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