Heather Conn Blogs

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Wake up! New scientific study predicts devastating shifts on earth

As North Korea pushes for war, and scientists newly predict the worst-yet impact of climate change, it would be easy to adopt a fear of the apocalypse. But no need to watch Waterworld again just yet (if you survived Kevin Costner’s acting the first time).


One thing that we can be grateful for, despite Stephen Harper’s best efforts to silence federal scientists, is that we even know the results of an influential report, Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere, which recently appeared in the scientific journal Nature.


In this new study, scientists have revealed that when you add variables such as population growth, over-consumption, agriculture, and extinctions to climate change, our entire ecological system can collapse within decades, as if destroyed by an epidemic. They call it “global state change,” and estimate that this disastrous state could start as early as 2050—if we continue on our current path.


“It’s the point of no return,” Dr. Arne Mooers, an evolutionary biologist at Simon Fraser University and one of the study’s co-authors, told the Vancouver Observer. “If something changes like the temperature, it could then cause a topsy-turvy, upside-downness that causes a new earth.” He adds: “We don’t know how fast the transition would be.”


We already know the dire effects of carbon dioxide on rising global temperatures, but this new report predicts that once humans have weakened enough of the planet’s ecosystems, the earth could quickly and irreversibly initiate a devastating chain reaction.


A group of paleontologists, computer modellers, mathematicians, biologists, and ecologists have combined existing data to create a model of changing systems that can reach rapid “tipping points” on a global scale. According to the report, simple systems require only a 58-per-cent change before they reach their tipping point.


“The earth may become a much more hostile place for everyone,” Mooers says. “The chances are that this transition would not only be extremely problematic to human society, but the new state might not be conducive to human society at all.”


Some decriers still insist that human activity creates only a minor blip in the fate of the planet. But the study says that human efforts to convert the earth act like a sledgehammer: agribusiness, industry, carbon emissions, habitat destruction, and population growth all combine to become “global-scale forcing mechanisms.” We humans have already converted 43 per cent of the planet for our use, the study says, through farming, industry, and cities.


The report states: “Planetary-scale critical transitions have occurred previously in the biosphere, albeit rarely, and . . . humans are now forcing another such transition, with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience.”


We might not like what this study is saying, but at least we’re aware of these findings because they’ve been made public. Knowledge is power.


When you celebrate Earth Day on April 22 this year, remember the sobering facts of this study, based on real science. What are three things you can do to lessen your impact on the earth? Start them now.


Many thanks to independent media like Vancouver Observer for their exclusive local coverage. The Nature article about this ground-breaking study appeared in time for this year’s Earth Summit or United Nations International Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro.

Click here to read the full article in the Vancouver Observer about this report.

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April 10, 2013 at 11:59 am Comments (0)