|A safe operating space forhumanity. Estimates of how the differentcontrol variables for seven planetaryboundaries have changed from 1950 topresent. The green shaded polygon representsthe safe operating space. (Reprinted withpermission from Ref 7. Copyright 2009,Macmillan Publishers Limited.)
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
and the more re-cent The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity
and Principles for Responsible Investment
reports,the wholesale destruction of worldwide ecosystemservices, the planet’s natural capital, is destroyingsome5trilliondollarsperyearofassetsandeconomicvalue. This is a conservative estimate, given that just1% of the planet’s species have been studied, manyholding potentially immense future value generatedby the 21st century’s exponentially growing bioinfor-matics sector and biotechnology industry, and will beirretrievably lost before science discovers them.
Ecosystem Services Irreversible Losses
With the world adding the population size of theUnited Kingdom every year, the projected 10 billionpopulation by 2050 will require a 70% increase infood production. Along with the increased energyand materials feeding humanity’s rising economic‘metabolism’,thecontinuedlossofecosystemservicesand natural capital is estimated to cost nearly 20% of annual Gross World Product by 2050.
Expandingenvironmental degradation and ecosystem collapsesarebeingrecognizedasmonumentalthreatstohumansecurity,
withevidenceoforcorrelationsbetweenloss of ecosystem services and piracy, land conﬂictsand resource wars, ethnic cleansing, and genocidalcrimes (e.g., Rwanda
Climate Destabilization andMega-Catastrophic Consequences
In 2010, global CO
emissions exceeded the worstcase scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Cli-mate Change, with 33 Gt carbon dioxide equivalent(CO
of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted fromoil, coal, natural gas, and cement production.
Anadditional 15–20% (5–6.6 Gt CO
e) are estimatedfrom deforestation, nearly 12 Gt CO
e from non-CO
and potentially 1 Gt CO
e of methaneemissions from hydro dams
Scientistsrecentlycalculatedthatthenetpresentvalue of climate change impacts from business-as-usual is $1240 trillion, assuming stabilization of at-mospheric concentrations of CO
e below 850 ppmby 2100.
In reality, society is not only on pace toexceed 850 ppm, but new evidence also indicates fargreater climate sensitivity at much lower levels previ-ously thought ‘safe’ (
450ppm).Three recent global modeling assessments in-dicate that the planet faces a 5–7
C increase inglobal average temperature this century—a drasti-cally large and rapid change unprecedented in thehistory of
Implications includedesertiﬁcation of roughly a quarter of global agri-cultural lands (half in Africa),
as well as resultingin largely irreversible changes in global ecosystemsfor 1000 years after emissions stop.
An estimatedtwo-thirds of the world plant and animals speciescould be driven to extinction, especially when com-pounded by humanity annually burning down andclearing tropical forests and ecosystems the size of England.Nor is this the worst of all possibilities. Otherrecent scientiﬁc research indicates that atmosphericCO
e emissions under business-as-usual carbon-intensive economic growth could trigger disastrous‘tipping points’, releasing vast storehouses of theearth’s carbon stocks into the atmosphere. Nearly adozen negative tipping points have been identiﬁed,
ranging from the melting of the permafrost and re-leaseofmassiveamountsofthepotentGHGmethane,
Volume 1, July/August 2012
2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.