Examples of humanity’s unsustainable lifestyle
In recent years, a vast number of alarming conclusions about the state of our planet have been presented by the research community and by various prominent organizations. Here are just a few examples:
In 2009, a research team identified nine planetary boundaries that constitute the ecological foundation of our existence. Two of the planetary boundaries – climate change and biosphere integrity – are recognized as core planetary boundaries since they are of fundamental importance for Earth. A recent study published in Science concluded that only three of the planetary boundaries are in the safe zone, two have not yet qualified, and four are beyond their safe boundaries (Steffen et al., 2015).
A recent study published in Nature Climate Change concluded that there is only a 1 percent chance that we will reach the ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement and limit the temperature increase to no more than 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels. According to the same study, there is only a 5% chance that the global temperature increase will be less than 2⁰C in 2100. Most likely the increase will be between 2.0-4.9⁰C. Such an increase will have severe consequences for Earth’s ecosystems (Raftery et al, 2017). The World Bank outlines the devastating consequences of a 4⁰C warmer world in the following way:
The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems. And most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs (The World Bank, 2012, p. ix).
In the Global Risk Report 2017, the World Economic Forum concludes that one of the greatest challenges of our time is the rising income and wealth disparity. In this regard, the World Economic Forum proclaimed (p. 11) that “[m]ore fundamental reforms to market capitalism maybe needed to tackle, in particular, an apparent lack of solidarity between those at the top of national income and wealth distributions and those further down.”
In a press release (6 May, 2019) commenting on the forthcoming Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Chair, Sir Robert Watson said that “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
IPBES, press release: https://www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment Verified September 3. 2019.
Raftery, A.E., Zimmer, A., Frierson, D.M.W., Startz, R. og Liu, P. (2017). Less than 2º C warming by 2100 unlikely. Nature Climate Change Vol. 7: 637-641.
Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S. E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E. M., … & Folke, C. (2015). Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223), 1259855.
World Bank (2012). Turn Down the Heat. Washington DC: World Bank.
World Economic Forum (2017). Global Risk Report 2017. Geneva: World Economic Forum.