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Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity

Author(s): Johan Rockström | Will Steffen | Kevin Noone | Åsa Persson | F. Stuart III Chapin | Eric Lambin | Timothy M. Lenton | Marten Scheffer | Carl Folke | Hans Joachim Schellnhuber | Björn Nykvist | Cynthia A. de Wit | Terry Hughes | Sander van der Leeuw | Henning Rodhe | Sverker Sörlin | Peter K. Snyder | Robert Costanza | Uno Svedin | Malin Falkenmark | Louise Karlberg | Robert W. Corell | Victoria J. Fabry | James Hansen | Brian Walker | Diana Liverman | Katherine Richardson | Paul Crutzen | Jonathan Foley

Journal: Ecology and Society
ISSN 1708-3087

Volume: 14;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 32;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: atmospheric aerosol loading | biogeochemical nitrogen cycle | biological diversity | chemical pollution | climate change | Earth | global freshwater use | land system change | ocean acidification | phosphorus cycle | planetary boundaries | stratospheric ozone | sustainability

Anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded. We propose a new approach to global sustainability in which we define planetary boundaries within which we expect that humanity can operate safely. Transgressing one or more planetary boundaries may be deleterious or even catastrophic due to the risk of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems. We have identified nine planetary boundaries and, drawing upon current scientific understanding, we propose quantifications for seven of them. These seven are climate change (CO2 concentration in the atmosphere
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