A new study published study in Nature alerts to impending catastrophic developments - this time not mainly based on climate change impacts but on wider developments caused by resource use. Here is the abstract:
Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.
Interestingly, the argument is not based on the climate change tipping points and associated alarm but on more general problems produced by the Anthropocene. I wonder what readers with a knowledge of the field make of it. At the moment of writing there is a working link to the paper here.
The paper concludes as follows:
Diminishing the range of biological surprises resulting from bottom-up (local-to-global) and top-down (global-to-local) forcings, postponing their effects and, in the optimal case, averting a planetary-scale critical transition demands global cooperation to stem current global-scale anthropogenic forcings3, 15, 16, 17, 19. This will require reducing world population growth31 and per-capita resource use; rapidly increasing the proportion of the world’s energy budget that is supplied by sources other than fossil fuels while also becoming more efficient in using fossil fuels when they provide the only option79; increasing the efficiency of existing means of food production and distribution instead of converting new areas34 or relying on wild species39 to feed people; and enhancing efforts to manage as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services, both in the terrestrial80 and marine realms39, the parts of Earth’s surface that are not already dominated by humans. These are admittedly huge tasks, but are vital if the goal of science and society is to steer the biosphere towards conditions we desire, rather than those that are thrust upon us unwittingly.