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Environment: Keeping Earth safe for humans

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The Edge Malaysia


KUALA LUMPUR, (The Edge Malaysia) – “[Earth is now] well outside of the safe operating space for humanity,” said the 24 scientists who published a study in the Science Advances journal in September. They found that six of nine planetary boundaries have been breached, namely those for climate change, biosphere integrity, land-system change, freshwater change, biogeochemical flows and novel entities.


“Imagine Earth as a spaceship with a control panel of nine big red buttons. Each button represents a ‘do not press’ limit on how much we can change the environment before bad things start happening,” says Dr. Ricky Anak Kemarau, research fellow and lecturer at the Earth Observation Centre, Institute of Climate Change, at  Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.


These buttons, Ricky explains, are the planetary boundaries. The climate change boundary, for instance, is crossed when global warming exceeds a certain level, while biosphere integrity is exceeded when there has been too much loss of plants and animals.


The biogeochemical flows boundary is transgressed when too much nitrogen and phosphorus is released into natural systems from excessive fertiliser use.


“Scientists have just reported that we’ve already pressed six of these buttons. This is a big deal because it means we’re risking the ship’s stability or our planet’s ability to support life as we know it,” says Ricky.



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