How Planetary Boundaries Envision A Safe Operating Space for Humanity

The Anthropocene is a term often used to describe the geological epoch we live in – an age where humans more than any other factor in nature shape the face of the planet. For centuries, humanity has effected change on its surroundings, but the industrial revolution and population growth increased the pace and scope of our actions, and only fairly recently have we begun to encounter the limits of what our pale blue home planet can endure. The urgency of this situation has not escaped world leaders as the Paris Agreement of 2015 has shown, yet the case for preventive measures against climate change, a growing loss of biosphere and increasing ocean acidification is still a hard one to make. Neuroscientists have shown that our brains aren’t wired to deal with slow-moving, long-term threats, and too often, political gridlock and diverging national interests create an unproductive context for solving a problem that is inherently global. As a common ground for these difficult discussions, Katherine Richardson and her international colleagues have developed a methodology that accurately and accessibly shows which planetary limits we will reach in the near future and which ones we have already overstepped. Termed Planetary Boundaries, this framework was endorsed and used as a reference point in policy and decision making by the UN general assembly, UNEP and the European Commission. At Falling Walls, Katherine demonstrates that humanity needs to tread carefully in order to keep our planet safe for future life

Katherine Richardson

University of Copenhagen

Katherine Richardson is Professor of Biological Oceanography and heads the Sustainability Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen. She chaired the Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy, which in 2010 presented a roadmap for Denmark to become independent of fossil fuels by 2050. She is also one of the leading scientists who coined the concept of planetary boundaries, introduced in 2009 and reinforced in 2015 – a framework that aims at identifying a safe operating space for sustainable human development on Earth.

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