The nine planetary boundaries (2023)

stratospheric ozone depletion
The stratospheric ozone layer in the atmosphere filters out ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. If this layer decreases, increasing amounts of ultraviolet radiation will reach the ground level. This can cause a higher incidence of skin cancer in humans, as well as damage to terrestrial and marine biological systems.

The occurrence of the Antarctic ozone hole was evidence that increasing concentrations of man-made ozone-depleting chemicals, which interact with polar stratospheric clouds, had crossed a threshold and brought the Antarctic stratosphere into a new regime. .

Fortunately, through the actions taken as a result of the Montreal Protocol, it appears that we are on the path that will allow us to stay within that limit.

Loss of integrity of the biosphere (loss of biodiversity and extinctions)
The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that changes in ecosystems due to human activities have been faster in the last 50 years than at any other time in human history, increasing the risks of abrupt and irreversible changes.

The main drivers of change are the demand for food, water and natural resources, which cause severe loss of biodiversity and lead to changes in ecosystem services. These drivers are constant, showing no evidence of decreasing over time or increasing in intensity. The current high rates of ecosystem damage and extinction can be reduced through efforts to protect the integrity of living systems (the biosphere), improving habitat and improving connectivity between ecosystems while maintaining the high agricultural productivity that humanity needs. .

(Video) These Are the 9 Planetary Boundaries - Johan Rockström

More research is being done to improve the availability of reliable data to use as 'control variables' for this threshold.

Chemical contamination and release of new entities
Emissions of toxic and long-lived substances such as synthetic organic pollutants, heavy metal compounds and radioactive materials represent some of the major human-induced changes in the planetary environment. These compounds can have potentially irreversible effects on living organisms and the physical environment (affecting atmospheric processes and climate).

Even when absorption and bioaccumulation of chemical pollution are at levels that are sublethal for organisms, the effects of reduced fertility and the potential for permanent genetic damage can have severe effects on ecosystems far from the source of the pollution. For example, persistent organic compounds caused dramatic declines in bird populations and affected the reproduction and development of marine mammals.

There are many examples of additive and synergistic effects of these compounds, but they are still poorly understood scientifically. We are currently unable to quantify a single threshold for chemical contamination, although the risk of crossing Earth system boundaries is considered sufficiently well defined to be listed as a priority for preventive action and for future research.

climate change
Recent evidence suggests that Earth, now passing 390 ppmv of CO2 in the atmosphere, has already crossed the planetary boundary and is approaching various Earth system thresholds.

(Video) Introduction to the Planetary Boundaries

We have reached a point where summer polar sea ice loss is almost certainly irreversible. This is an example of a well-defined threshold above which fast physical feedback mechanisms can push the Earth system into a much warmer state with higher sea levels than today. The weakening or reversal of terrestrial carbon sinks, for example through the continued destruction of the world's rainforests, is another potential tipping point where carbon-climate cycle feedbacks accelerate global warming and intensify climate impacts.

An important question is how long we can stay above this threshold before major irreversible changes become inevitable.

ocean acidification
About a quarter of the CO2 that humanity emits into the atmosphere ends up dissolving in the oceans. Here it forms carbonic acid, altering ocean chemistry and lowering the pH of surface waters. This increased acidity reduces the amount of available carbonate ions, an essential "building block" used by many marine species to form shells and skeletons.

In addition to a concentration threshold, this increasing acidity hinders the growth and survival of organisms such as corals and some species of molluscs and plankton. The loss of these species would change the structure and dynamics of ocean ecosystems and could lead to drastic reductions in fish populations. Compared to pre-industrial times, ocean surface acidity has already increased by 30%.

Unlike most other human impacts on the marine environment, which are generally local in scale, the ocean acidification threshold has planet-wide ramifications. It is also an example of how the boundaries are strongly interconnected, as atmospheric CO2 concentration is the underlying control variable for climate and ocean acidification thresholds, even though they are defined in terms of different Earth system thresholds.

(Video) 10 years to transform the future of humanity -- or destabilize the planet | Johan Rockström

Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
The freshwater cycle is heavily affected by climate change and its boundary is closely related to the climate boundary, but human pressure is now the dominant driving force that determines the functioning and distribution of global freshwater systems.

Consequences of human modification of water bodies include both changes in river flow on a global scale and changes in steam flows resulting from land use change. These changes in the hydrological system can be abrupt and irreversible. Water is becoming increasingly scarce: by 2050, around 500 million people are likely to experience water stress, increasing pressure to intervene in water systems.

A water boundary related to consumptive freshwater use and environmental flow requirements has been proposed to maintain overall Earth system resilience and avoid the risk of local and regional "cascading" thresholds.

Earth system change
Land is converted for human use across the planet. Forests, grasslands, swamps and other types of vegetation have been mostly converted to agricultural land. This land use change is one of the driving forces behind severe reductions in biodiversity and has impacts on water fluxes and the biogeochemical cycle of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and other important elements.

While each incident of land cover change occurs on a local scale, aggregated impacts can have consequences for Earth system processes on a global scale. A threshold for human changes in land systems should reflect not only the absolute amount of land, but also its function, quality, and spatial distribution. Forests play a particularly important role in controlling the linked dynamics of land use and climate, and are the frontier focus for land system change.

(Video) Let the environment guide our development | Johan Rockstrom

Fluxes of Nitrogen and Phosphorus to the Biosphere and Oceans
The biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have been radically modified by man as a result of many industrial and agricultural processes. Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential elements for plant growth, so the main concern is the production and application of fertilizers.

Human activities now convert more atmospheric nitrogen into reactive forms than all terrestrial processes on Earth combined. Much of this new reactive nitrogen is emitted into the atmosphere in various forms rather than being taken up by crops. When it rains, it contaminates waterways and coastal areas or accumulates in the Earth's biosphere. Similarly, plants absorb a relatively small proportion of the phosphate fertilizers applied to food production systems; much of the phosphorus mobilized by humans also ends up in aquatic systems. These can run out of oxygen as bacteria consume the algae that grow in response to the high supply of nutrients.

A significant fraction of applied nitrogen and phosphorus reaches the sea and can push marine and aquatic systems beyond their own ecological limits. An example of this effect on a regional scale is the decline in shrimp catches in the 'dead zone' of the Gulf of Mexico, caused by fertilizer carried in rivers in the midwestern United States.

Atmospheric Aerosol Charge
A planetary atmospheric aerosol boundary has been proposed primarily due to the influence of aerosols on the Earth's climate system. Through their interaction with water vapour, aerosols play a critical role in the hydrologic cycle that affects cloud formation and atmospheric circulation patterns on a global and regional scale, such as monsoon systems in tropical regions. They also have a direct effect on climate by changing the amount of solar radiation reflected or absorbed in the atmosphere.

Humans modify the aerosol load by emitting air pollution (many pollutant gases condense into droplets and particles) and also through changes in land use that increase the release of dust and smoke into the air. Changes in climate regimes and monsoon systems have already been observed in highly polluted environments, providing a quantifiable regional measure for an aerosol threshold.

(Video) What are the planetary boundaries? | Mongabay Explains

Another reason for an aerosol limit is that aerosols have adverse effects on many living organisms. Inhaling highly polluted air causes the premature death of approximately 800,000 people each year. The toxicological and ecological effects of aerosols can be related to other thresholds in the Earth system. However, the behavior of aerosols in the atmosphere is extremely complex, depending on their chemical composition and their geographic location and altitude in the atmosphere.

Although many relationships between aerosols, climate, and ecosystems are well established, many causal links remain to be determined.


Have the 9 planetary boundaries already been passed? ›

In early May 2022, many of us were peacefully basking in the sun, while the sixth planetary boundary in the earth system was being broken, met with general indifference. This means that six planetary boundaries out of nine have now been crossed. The figure was updated in early May by researchers and scientists.

What is important about the 9 planetary boundaries? ›

Planetary boundaries, put simply, are thresholds within which humanity can survive, develop and thrive for generations to come. These nine boundaries created a safe operating limit for survival.

How many planetary boundaries have we already exceeded group of answer choices? ›

We've crossed four of nine planetary boundaries.

Who came up with the 9 planetary boundaries? ›

In 2009, former centre director Johan Rockström led a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists to identify the nine processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system.

What is planetary boundaries short note? ›

The planetary boundary (PB) concept, introduced in 2009, aimed to define the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate. This approach has proved influential in global sustainability policy development. Steffen et al. provide an updated and extended analysis of the PB framework.

Which planetary boundaries have been crossed 2022? ›

On 18th January 2022, a catastrophic news just fell. Scientists from the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC) confirmed that we have crossed a 5th planetary boundary : the “chemical pollution” boundary or “introduction of novel entities into the biosphere“.

What planetary boundaries are being violated by human activity? ›

There are currently three planetary boundaries being violated by human activity: climate, biodiversity, and biogeochemical cycles.

How many planetary boundaries have we crossed into the danger zone? ›

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen). Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”.

What are the key concepts of planetary boundaries? ›

Takeuchi: There is a total of 9 boundaries: (1) climate change, (2) atmospheric aerosol loading, (3) stratospheric ozone depletion, (4) ocean acidification, (5) freshwater change, (6) land use change, (7) biosphere integrity, (8) biogeochemical flows of nitrogen and phosphorus, and (9) novel entities.

What are planetary boundaries What does this mean why should we care? ›

Planetary boundaries are limitations placed on human activities in an ecosystem. Within their confinements, there is a “safe operating space for humanity”, and beyond them, there is a risk of destabilization of our planet due to “unacceptable global environmental change”.

Why is the planetary boundary layer important? ›

The structure and dynamics of the lowest layer of the atmosphere which comprises the planetary boundary layer (PBL) are of vital importance for the understanding of weather and climate, the dispersion of pollutants, and the exchange of heat, water vapor, and momentum with the underlying surface.

Which planetary boundaries have we already gone beyond the zone of uncertainty? ›

Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015). The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Which planetary boundaries have not yet been quantified? ›

Consumption-related environmental impacts are not quantified at the global level for the planetary boundaries of freshwater use, atmospheric aerosol loading (air pollution) and stratospheric ozone depletion.

How many planetary boundaries have we already exceeded quizlet? ›

a. Exceeding the ten planetary boundaries will affect the natural processes of Earth. The resources we have right now will start to decline and we have now exceeded 3 out of 10 of the boundaries.

What are planetary boundaries quizlet? ›

Planetary boundaries. limits between which global systems must operate to prevent abrupt and irreversible environmental change.

What types of boundaries are on the Earth? ›

There are three kinds of plate tectonic boundaries: divergent, convergent, and transform plate boundaries. This image shows the three main types of plate boundaries: divergent, convergent, and transform.

What is the planetary boundary layer quizlet? ›

What is the planetary boundary layer? What role does it play in tropospheric air motion? It is the region of the lower atmosphere where air motion is affected by friction created by the earth's surface and air density differences immediately above it.

What 4 planetary boundaries have we exceeded? ›

The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles.

What does it mean for climate change to cross a planetary boundary? ›

Simply put, climate change threatens to cross a planetary boundary, to put the Earth system into a new state, a state different from that in which civilization emerged. Our civilization remains highly customized to Holocene Earth. Climate change may force us to make major adaptations.

What planetary boundaries are high risk? ›

Scientists note nine planetary boundaries beyond which we can't push Earth Systems without putting our societies at risk: climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol pollution, freshwater use, biogeochemical flows of nitrogen and phosphorus, land-system change, and ...

Are humans responsible for destroying the planet? ›

Humans impact the physical environment in many ways: overpopulation, pollution, burning fossil fuels, and deforestation. Changes like these have triggered climate change, soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water.

What conditions on the planet are harmful to humans? ›

Scientists categorize Earth as a 'toxic planet'
  • Manufactured chemicals – 30 million tonnes a year.
  • Plastic pollution of oceans – 8mt/yr.
  • Hazardous waste – 400 mt/yr.
  • Coal, oil, gas etc – 15 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) a year.
  • Lost soil – 75 Gt/yr.
  • Metals and materials – 75 Gt/yr.
  • Mining and mineral wastes - <200 Gt/yr.
Feb 7, 2017

What is the danger zone in space? ›

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists created the first maps of so-called planetary "danger-zones," areas where winds and radiation from super-hot stars can strip younger, cooler stars like our Sun of their planet-forming materials.

What is the main characteristics of a planetary system? ›

Generally speaking, planetary systems describe systems with one or more planets, although such systems may also consist of bodies such as dwarf planets, asteroids, natural satellites, meteoroids, comets and planetesimals as well as discernable features including circumstellar disks.

What is the most important element that a planet needs to support life? ›

The most important parameter for Earth-like life is the presence of liquid water, which directly depends on pressure and temperature. Temperature is key both because of its influence on liquid water and because it can be directly estimated from orbital and climate models of exoplanetary systems.

Is it possible to achieve a good life for all within planetary boundaries? ›

Using data on social and biophysical indicators provided by O'Neill et al., this paper argues that it is theoretically possible to achieve a good life for all within planetary boundaries in poor nations by building on existing exemplary models and by adopting fairer distributive policies.

Why are space and boundaries An important part of a healthy relationship? ›

Boundaries are an integral part of healthy relationships because they help to maintain a balance between you and your partner. They also help minimize conflict, because they establish a precedent for what you both expect from each other.

Which layer is the the most important one and why? ›

Troposphere is considered as the most important layer of atmosphere. It is the lower most layer of the Atmosphere.

Which layer is the most important to Earth and why? ›

Importance of troposphere to life on earth

The study of the troposphere is very important because we breathe the air in this layer of air. The troposphere contains about 85% of the atmosphere's total mass.

What happens in the planetary boundary layer? ›

planetary boundary layer (PBL), also called atmospheric boundary layer, the region of the lower troposphere where Earth's surface strongly influences temperature, moisture, and wind through the turbulent transfer of air mass.

What five boundaries have been surpassed? ›

The other five boundaries are: Stratospheric ozone depletion. Ocean acidification.
These are:
  • climate change.
  • loss of biosphere integrity.
  • land-system change.
  • altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Which of the following planetary boundaries remained unchanged? ›

Three of the boundaries remain essentially unchanged: climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and ocean acidification.

Which planetary boundaries have been breached? ›

Breaching the planetary boundaries

These nine thresholds – climate change; ocean acidification; the ozone layer; forest degradation; agrochemical pollution; freshwater overuse; air pollution; toxic waste and biodiversity loss – regulate how close we are to abrupt environmental change.

What planet have we not explored? ›

Publications such as the New York Times have called Pluto "the last of known worlds to be explored" and "the end of an era of planetary exploration."

Which country seems to be doing the best with not exceeding biophysical boundaries while still meeting social thresholds? ›

No country currently achieves all 11 social thresholds without also exceeding multiple biophysical boundaries. The closest thing we found to an exception was Vietnam, which achieves six of the 11 social thresholds, while only transgressing one of the seven biophysical boundaries (CO₂ emissions).

Which of the 9 planetary boundaries have already been passed? ›

At the time, the study revealed that three other planetary boundaries had already been crossed: climate change, biodiversity loss, and disruption of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycle.

Which 9 planetary boundaries have been crossed? ›

The nine planetary boundaries
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion. ...
  • Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions) ...
  • Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities. ...
  • Climate Change. ...
  • Ocean acidification. ...
  • Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle. ...
  • Land system change.

How many planetary boundaries are there? ›

The planetary boundaries concept presents a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.

How does each planetary boundary affect one another? ›

Crossing a planetary boundary comes at the risk of abrupt environmental change. The framework is based on scientific evidence that human actions, especially those of industrialized societies since the Industrial Revolution, have become the main driver of global environmental change.

What happens if we cross the planetary boundaries? ›

"Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries," says Lead author, Professor Will ...

How does planetary position affect humans? ›

Astrology purports that astronomical bodies have influence on people's lives beyond basic weather patterns, depending on their birth date. This claim is scientifically false. Numerous scientific studies have disproven that astronomical bodies affect people's lives according to their birth date.


1. The Planetary Boundaries and what they mean for the Future of Humanity
2. The Nine Planetary Boundaries: Finessing the Anthropocene | Mark Lynas
(Long Now Foundation)
3. How many planetary boundaries have already been crossed? | The Circular Economy Show
(Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
4. Planetary boundaries have crossed the tipping point | What next? | UPSC CSE/IAS | Saurabh Pandey
(Let's Crack UPSC CSE)
5. Johan Rockström | A safe and just future within planetary boundaries
6. Planetary Boundaries: 2022 Update with Professor Will Steffen - Greenprints Exchange Workshop Series


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated: 03/08/2023

Views: 6259

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.