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Surprising Science

Is Earth at an Environmental Tipping Point?

Humanity is on the threshold of disturbing half of the Earth’s landmass. Scientists say that could represent a crucial tipping point beyond which the planet’s biology would drastically change. 

What’s the Latest Development?

A recent report in the scientific journal Nature suggests that Earth may be approaching a crucial tipping point in which human influence over the natural environment will irrevocably change the planet’s biology. “…the Nature authors note that current trends suggest that half the Earth’s land surface will be disturbed by human activity by 2025—and that could represent the point of no return for a livable planet.” For some parts of the planet that lack resources to adapt to climate change, e.g. the high Himalayas of Nepal and the desperately poor and hungry parts of sub-Saharan Africa, a tipping point may have already been reached. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The influence of human activity on the planet’s resources is unprecedented. Due to human encroachment on wild habitats, scientists now say we are living through the sixth greatest period of species extinction in history. “Human population has quadrupled just in the past century, and today we add around 77 million people a year… We’ve converted 43% of the Earth’s land to agricultural or urban landscapes… We’ve increased the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide by more than a third, we’ve made the oceans more acidic… All of these changes are speeding up, not slowing down.”

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