By Johan Rockström
Pope Francis’s just-released encyclical on the environment sends a powerful message not just to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but to the rest of the global population as well. Firmly rooted in science, the teaching document – the most significant from the Vatican in over a decade – recognizes the need for urgent action, as the world confronts potentially catastrophic climate change.
In 2000, the scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer proposed that human activity, particularly in the developed world, was interfering at the planetary scale, with the fundamental forces of nature – the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, the ice sheets, biodiversity, the oceans, and the forests. The changes were so profound, they suggested, that geologists in the future would see a clear break from the previous geological era, the Holocene, to a new one, which they called the Anthropocene.
Over the last 15 years, scientific evidence has reinforced the conclusion that human activity is fundamentally transforming the planet. The Vatican has already recognized this view explicitly, with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences referring to the Anthropocene in the proceedings of a meeting held in May 2014.
The Holocene, which began 11,700 years ago as the last Ice Age receded, has been a period of remarkable stability. After an age of drastic swings, average global temperatures settled in to a stable pattern within an extraordinarily narrow range of 1° Celsius. The relative stability of the climate and predictability of seasons facilitated the emergence of agriculture, which, in turn, enabled the creation of towns and cities.
In other words, the Holocene’s defining features are critical to support human civilization as we know it – a conclusion that the latest encyclical supports. Moreover, as recent evidence indicates, when large natural systems are placed under high levels of stress, they can reach tipping points, at which only a small adjustment is sufficient to trigger their collapse. It seems that many systems are already nearing that point.
Last year, researchers working in Antarctica observed that major parts of the ice sheet appear to be collapsing irrevocably. On the other side of the planet, sea ice is on such a rapid downward spiral that, in just a few decades, the Arctic could be open ocean in the summer. This could drive global temperatures even higher, because the darker ocean absorbs solar heat, whereas white sea ice reflects it.
In 2009, my colleagues and I identified nine planetary boundaries relating to areas like climate, biodiversity, nitrogen and phosphorus use, and deforestation that, if respected, would enable us to preserve – or, at least avoid disrupting further – Holocene conditions. When we updated our analysis earlier this year, we concluded that we have already violated four of the nine boundaries.
If we do not change our behavior quickly, we may well lose the environmental stability upon which our planet – and our lives – depends. This is the main message of the pope’s encyclical.
Protecting our planet is a moral imperative. As the Vatican has pointed out, the poor are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change; for example, some of our activities threaten to undermine food production in the drier – and poorer – areas of the world. But we also face an economic imperative, because reliable access to natural resources is essential for human development and prosperity. And, in fact, increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters carry massive human and economic costs.
As the encyclical makes clear, the future does not have to be bleak. We can take this opportunity to build a new future – one in which environmental sustainability supports human progress and dignity. It is business as usual that holds out the bleakest prospect for humanity.
The most immediate priority is to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, which is reaching mass-extinction levels. Global temperatures have risen almost 1°C in the last century, placing them at the Holocene boundary. If, as the recently published “earth statement” underlines, temperatures reach 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the results could be disastrous. Yet, if current emissions trends hold, temperatures are set to rise by more than 4°C from pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.
According to Francis’s encyclical, the world must work together to reverse this trend, by reconnecting with the biosphere and harmonizing their activities with nature. Taking a strong stance that aligns with our planetary-boundaries research, the encyclical underscores humanity’s responsibility to sustain Holocene-era stability in support of world development.
But some – such as the recently published “Ecomodernist Manifesto” – are less concerned with the environmental risks of the Anthropocene, preferring to rely on our technological capacity to adapt to changing conditions.
To be sure, technological innovation and development will be vital in the shift to a more sustainable world, particularly by enabling the creation of a zero-emissions society by around 2050. But it will not be enough to support good lifestyles for all citizens worldwide. The global transformation that is needed now must be based not on technological advancement, but on our collective values and convictions – especially our commitment to safeguard the planet’s stability and resilience by protecting the global commons.
In September, world leaders will meet to agree on new Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide global development efforts for the next 15 years. Unlike the new targets’ predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs will apply to all countries, and will include an explicit focus on environmental sustainability, in addition to human and economic development. In December, when world leaders meet again to hammer out a climate agreement, the quality of their work will, in many ways, determine the trajectory of the planet.
The pope’s declaration echoes the draft text for the SDGs: “the future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands.” This is more than mere rhetoric; it represents a shift to a new paradigm, in which humans are the driving force behind planetary developments, and thus have a new responsibility of stewardship. Our choices have never been more important.
Johan Rockström is Professor in Global Sustainability and Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University, and the Executive Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre. He led the recent development of the new Planetary Boundaries framework for human development in the current era of rapid global change and co-chaired the visioning process on global environmental change of the International Council for Science.
Sherry E says
I guess Jeb Bush doesn’t even have an environmental policy at all. . . just an economic one. That should speak volumes to us all! Here’s what Jeb has said about the pope’s concern about climate change:
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Bush said, according to the New York Times. “And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issues before I pass judgment.”
Other Republicans came out against the pope after he first spoke on climate change in January.
“I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” the pope said, according to Reuters.
This is the perfect time for the Pope to Excommunicate all of the Right Winged Catholic Tea Baggers. The Pope is infallible and is taking the responsible position of telling the World that God has told him to Protect the Earth. Who is right, the Pope or the Koch Brothers, you decide?
So…we should climb aboard the man-made global warming hoax because the Pope says so? In that case, let’s outlaw abortions too.
a tasty bacon sidedish says
Pretty amazing how much willful ignorance is motivated by fox news and the FYGM mentality. Let’s presume that man made climate change is a hoax. Would you agree that not dicking up the environment is probably a good thing for future generations, or is this a football you’re going to punt down a generation or so because you can’t drop your bullshit ideology long enough to care about anything other than yourself?
Catholics are certainly not the problem today… I can’t say the same for the right-wing Baptists and other extremists. Perhaps we should do this world a favor and send them all off to Mars.. That way we can have another pun use for the term “Red Planet.”
It must also be said that the Pope used to be a chemical technician and has a degree in that study from his youth… So I would call his science background more noteworthy on a science topic than other “non believers” of science. Ironic no?
Pretty amazing how the left uses “one media source” as a constant boogie man and tries to take debates to their illogical extreme. Next…is the tired lame “you’re greedy” label….the emotion is strong, if only there were a hint of logic.
First, we get the comments by government-lovers that those not agreeing with the pope on this issue should be excommunicated and are “against the pope”. Failing to acknowledge that they have been against the Pope, in terms, of abortion for decades. It’s only when the Pope is for something they agree with that they stand behind the Vatican flag. Pardon me for seeing hilarity in the left’s duplicity.
Secondly, the man-made global warming is the result of computer models. Data created these models. We already have ample evidence through emails, through third party and non-government related reporting that data was fabricated, for decades, by government sponsored parties to show a warming trend. It’s about funding, after all. We also have data showing that the last decade shows a different trend…that of cooling. Garbage data in, garbage data out.
Lastly, of course I believe in conservation. Man-made global warming is not conservation, it is an attempt at regulatory control of our economy under international laws and guidelines. Wake up to the fact, that every time we close an “evil” coal plant in a quest to save the environment, China and India each open up one. The international community who promotes the hoax knows this, but says nothing! This should be a wake up call for you but, you don’t want facts, you want emotional arguments. Also, we don’t have a plan in place to augment the power needed because of plant closings. Also, realize that solar and wind are supplemental power, not primary, and cost far more per kilowatt than anything else. Nuclear would be great but, the left already has spread their lies and fear mongering about it.
The Pope is not speaking with infallibility on this issue. Although he makes some valid points he is wrong on the major issue. Climate Change has always been happening consider Ice Ages etc.. The question is how much man is having an impact on the normal natural progression of climate changes. Most honest scientists feel that the effect of man made climate change is very minimal in the big
picture. We need to separate emotional issues like poverty in the third world from a realistic look at the environment. If you take the Pope’ words on this issue we come to the conclusion that he is blaming God for our climate problems.
Sherry E says
YET AGAIN, Lancer, (this is the third time I’ve referred you to this . . . you know, three strikes and you’re out. . . or are you just plain. . . never mind ). . . this “scientific” analysis from NASA:
Now, let’s see your “credible” scientific evidence that climate change is a hoax, please. PUT UP, OR SHUT UP!
“Dinosaurs are Jesus Ponies!!”…………………….Sarah Palin 2008
Betcha, that kind of sums things up pretty well
NASA and NOAH, Sherry. Once again, for the third time, try to comprehend the points being made.
…and Sherry’s argument from here will be “my source is good, your source is bad”. This is what happens happens when she’s confronted.
a tasty bacon sidedish says
Well, this post says it all. Apparently forbes.com and “beforeitsnews” trump peer-reviewed science. Next on lancer’s plate: evolution and the big bang, debunked by a jack chick tract. Read it and weep, libtards.
According to Lancer’s logic, the government conspiracy (hoax) to acquire new funding must also include an evil plot to dry up countless water bodies across the globe in addition to the massive breakup of large ice shelfs in the north and south polar regions…
It’s a sad day for the progress of humanity when hard scientific data is chastised as an evil liberal hoax against the conservative right… Especially when they fail to refute science with any data of their own… Rhetoric and eye rolls is what they bring to the table not solutions.
I feel like I’m living in the medieval age trying to tell the Catholic Church and the kings of various empires the earth is actually round…
Sherry E says
Lancer. . . here’s a definition of your “credible” source on climate change. . . as I noted once before:
Before It’s News
Some dare call it
Before It’s News is a citizen journalism outfit, where anyone can write something and have it go up. Or at least, that was the intention, as it was promptly flooded with conspiracy theorists and is now an outlet for an “unabashedly unhinged” take on world events and religious prophecy. The advertising is for survivalist supplies.
The site is also used by some conspiracy theorists to promote their Youtube videos about various conspiracy theories. Some “articles” are just a single Youtube video.
The site was founded in 2008 by dot com investor and Falun Gong practitioner Chris Kitze. Before It’s News describes itself as “People Powered News®”, and accepts stories from any political background, although its political stories are entirely from conservative viewpoints and BIN goes so far as to have a dedicated “Obama Birthplace Controversy” category. A significant amount of the site’s content consists of bloggers reposting their stories with links back to their own site. There are also comments enabled for articles, which in themselves are a source of much humor, facepalming, and banging one’s head on one’s desk, though in some cases rationality and critical thinking manage to prevail.
The site also runs a podcast called BIN Radio. The Skeptical Humanities blog uses Before It’s News as a rich source of idiocy for their “This Week In Conspiracy” series.
Sherry E says
Oh Yeah. . . and Peter Ferrara (the author of the Forbes article) is a lawyer (not a scientist) who quotes a Russian scientist who thinks that global cooling MAY happen in the future. Peter Ferrara is an analyst (AKA talking head) for the Heartland Institute which is described as:
The Heartland Institute is “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.” — The Economist, May 26, 2012.
Like I said. . . “credible sources” please!
a tasty bacon sidedish says
Next on beforeitsnews.com: 0bama threatens to use executive powers to repeal the law of gravity, causing all guns to float off of the planet.
Yikes!! Who would’ve guessed the Pope is a Democrat. Most GOPers “are not Scientists”. So they don’t believe in global warming.
And all that other stuff about treating each other – as (believe it not) as you would have them treat you. Shameful.
Besides, as my good TP friends say, “That’s all phony science!”
May my God save us all.
Don’t forget to vote next time.
Sherry I could not agree more. Our arguments may fall on deaf ears as the individuals we argue against tend to be as naraccistic in their intentions as they are fallible in their assertions. I feel bad for those who are just naive to know either.. It’s sad that the stupid tend to be the loudest voices in the room.
Which brings me to my final point. People tend to think that stupid is a condition, but truth is: Ignorance is a condition; stupid is a way of life. Stupidity is the choice to be ignorant for the entirety of ones life.
1. NOAH admitted their guilt when they revised their data! They got caught, Sherry, as did NASA. After all, the government would never lie to the people…right?
2. Pat76…so your “logic” is that the drying of water holes and lakes is a recent phenomena and hasn’t happened in the past??!! Wrong. Then there’s this! Global wetness! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3105940/Climate-change-bringing-rain-Africa-30-years-Live-Aid-tried-help-end-famine.html
Climates change…the belief this is man-made….is the greatest hoax attempted.
a tasty bacon sidedish says
“Middle-class children have better genes, says former schools chief…and we just have to accept it”
“big-headed babies more prone to cancer”
“women who want to succeed at work should shut up”
“Yew are always on my mind! The tree that looks like Elvis in profile.”
Those are other hard-hitting headlines from your news source and noted british tabloid, the daily mail. What’s next? A link to the weekly world news?
If dinosaur “bones have been buried for “millions” of “years”, then why are they so clean when they’re in museums? They would be dirty. And if the “bones” are “real”, why do they need wire to keep them together?
Real animals don’t need wire.
And they are dirty
Michele Bachmann …….Fox News Oct.22, 2014
Clever try YankeeExPat!
Though it sounds like a Bachmann remark – go see:
Yea YankeeExPat be careful not to fall into those fake Facebook quote/meme traps lol. Although I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Bachmann had really said that.
Lancer I am going to approach this from another angle…
What do YOU think happens to the atmosphere when CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels rise due to human manufacturing and vehicles / industry??
Plants live off of CO2, Pat…didn’t you know that? Without CO2 we would have massive deforestation and plant growth would be limited. Higher CO2 levels means faster growing plant-life. By your argument, a population explosion would be bad since we exhale CO2!
I don’t, necessarily, support the coal industry and do see them as major polluters. However, there is no scrutiny against China and India who are bringing more and more coal power plants on line…over 1,000 planned(research it). The international community knows this and, yet, there is no political pressure or international scrutiny towards them for adding pollutants.
We have government funded entities caught, red handed, fabricating their data. We have major disagreement amongst scientists(those funded by government and those that are not) whether its a natural phenomena or man-made. Then, we have the living sun, which is not on a thermostat, being more active at some times, than others.
It is my belief that this “man-made” hoopla is nothing more than an attempt by government-lovers to install more regulation and legislation that leads to taxation and attempts at increasing government control, period. After all, the Pope is even calling for a “global governance”…who controls that…Russia, China? Would they not act in their own self interest to the detriment of other countries? Of course they would.
a tasty bacon sidedish says
1. NOAA and NASA haven’t fabricated data. They’re working with data that spans many, many decades collected using methods and/or via devices that have changed as technology has evolved. In the sciences, it is not at all uncommon to account for this by correcting the data to reflect this. Someone finds a mistake, i.e. the temperature isn’t measured at the same time of the day during decade 3, and they correct the data to account for it. This isn’t unique to climatology, it’s done all throughout physics, chemistry, and astronomy.
2. There is a >97% agreeance amongst active climate scientists regarding the role of man in climate change. Calling that major disagreement is like someone saying that they are “a little pregnant” or “not racist but.”
3. You know nothing about the sun. It has an activity period with an 11-year cycle, which the climate decidedly does not. At its most active, the amount of radiant energy hitting the earth increases by less than 0.1%, a fact that has been studied for many, many decades by scientists unrelated to climatology located throughout the world.
You’ve chosen to eschew science for pseudoscience because science doesn’t fit your political ideology, and there’s no functional difference between you and someone that denies their children chemotherapy or donated blood for religious reasons. At the end of the day, in all likelihood their kids will die because of their beliefs.
People it’s the fucking Pope! Remember the scriptures. You do not quibble with a mans who’s infallabibble! Amen.
Sherry E says
Oh Yes. . . and just a tiny by the way, Lancer. . . I have actually personally been to Alaska and Canada (several times), and to fabulous New Zealand where I have personally witnessed the dramatic evidence of retreating glaciers. And you. . . please do tell us all about where you’ve gone to see ice shelves and glaciers advancing (you know. . . growing).
Sherry E says
Right On. . . tasty bacon sidedish! Thanks so much “ALL” for chiming in! Throwing scientific fact out the window and believing conspiracy theories, while backing up personal prejudices with “junk media” is unfortunately all too prevalent in our society. Loudly stated. passionate ignorance is dangerous because so many are too lazy to do do their own research and simply follow like lemmings. That’s why I admire you ALL, and Pierre and Norton Smitty, Jon, Nancy, and Steve Robinson, etc.
Keep the faith. . . keep speaking out against racism, injustice, media manipulation, junk science. . . et al. . . We DO have a healthy impact, We DO raise consciousness. We DO question and educate. As Norton Smitty says. . . baby steps. . . but certainly worthwhile!
First I want to thank the educated participants of this discussion for giving me renewed hope on science and humanity.. Some of the most recent comments are the best I have read yet.
Now I want to clear the air (pun slightly intended) on some of Lancers assertions about CO2 levels…
Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) are actually harmful to plants and living creatures alike. In fact, we have known this for decades as research has shown that increased CO2 actually lowers plants transpiration during photosynthesis thus slowing growth leading to necrosis of the cells. So in short – it actually kills plants!!! The very plants that give us oxygen so to be honest I don’t know what we would die from first… Lack of oxygen, starvation, or rising sea levels! They all tie together..
In fact too much of any good thing is a bad thing. Even oxygen at high levels is dangerous for our blood. Or oxygen at high pressures / hypoxia etc… If we continue to use this flawed line of thinking Lancer, we may actually kill ourselves in a lot of other ways faster than global climate change. (Global warming is an inaccurate term)
It’s called Global Climate Change because CO2 levels can get so thick in the atmosphere that the molecules no longer trap light but prevent it altogether from reaching the lower atmosphere thus causing cooling in areas of higher density. Some areas may start with higher than normal average temps while others lower… Although the overall average temperature of the earth will drop at first due to initial warming balanced throughout the atmosphere followed by rapid cooling… Either way we are in trouble so the reality is we need to address our energy resources globally in every nation.
We can argue all day Lancer but you can’t argue facts
Thanks for having, finally, something to say:
1. They have, they were caught and there were emails that proved it. They have fabricated data for decades, and that’s the point. Their models haven’t been close to what they predicted. But…continue to believe what you’re told. You’re a nice piggy in a comfortable, government made pen.
2. What percentage of “climate scientists” are paid by governments, Tasty? Paychecks are nice.
3. We are at a 15 year period of global cooling, actually.
I agree too much of anything IS a bad thing…like government growth and regulations which stifle our country. Especially, when those regulations will NOT have any effect on anything…other than taxes. Trucks will still drive and planes will still fly. Congrats…you will have made no impact and will have increased prices on all consumers through regulation and taxation by promoting a hoax….and funding will continue for the next boogie man. Global cooling in the ’70’s, Acid Rain in the ’80’s, Man-made global warming today…
So…why do you all choose to COMPLETELY ignore the 1000’s of coal power plants produced by India and China? Where’s the lefts and international scrutiny? Where’s the calls of “man-made global warming” stopping that development? Anything undertaken in the US pails in comparison to the amount of pollutants these countries will produce. Your silence on this matter is deafening.
“I think you doth protest too much”.
Have a great week!
a tasty bacon sidedish says
1. I challenge you to find a source that isn’t a kook website that can validate your claims. You won’t. A number of independent investigations of the scientists involved in the emails that you allege show fraud exonerated them. Note the word “independent.”
2. >97%, including those across the entire world, getting funding from various sources that do not include the US federal government. The government doesn’t dole out money based upon research that says what they want it to, if that was the case then the bulk of climate research done during the bush era would never have happened. Proposals are submitted to the NSF that include monetary estimates for graduate students, professor salaries, equipment, etc. with a reasonably solid direction of research but NO CONCLUSIONS. The money facilitates the research, it isn’t awarded for the end product. Research scientists aren’t paid for conclusions, they are paid to do research.
3. And that has what do to with the sun’s 11-year activity cycle? Nothing.
Lancer, you can continue to latch on to layer upon layer of perceived conspiracy just to save face regarding your political ideology, ignoring truly staggering levels of evidence and putting everyone at risk out of a sense of selfish denial, or you can accept the fact that science may draw conclusions that you don’t like but are true nonetheless.
…and yet, you haven’t documented…ANY source, not one.
Your linear thinking is impressive and your focus on the single tree is commendable. Unfortunately, you’re unable to understand the forest and the ultimate conclusion of the “hoax”. Let me break it down like a fraction for you, including a few facts,you and yours refuse to acknowledge, that blows your beliefs away.
Suppose the “hoax” is undertaken by our political class. What are their options, what do you suppose they’ll do?
They’ll impose more regulations on our power plants. They’ll inact carbon footprint taxes, etc. Great! Now…utilities payments increase. It will be more expensive to ship goods, it will be more expnsive to fly. People still have to travel work, still travel for vacation, still burn fossil fuels and still crave power. Nothing has changed but, the cost. People like you will chant in appreciation of said legislation. You’ll think you’re Cpt. Planet!
But the reality is…China and India have built and will build THOUSANDS of coal power plants and the legislation and your beliefs in the hoax….have done nothing, nada, zip, zilch except cost you more to live. Thats the reality, thats full circle and your not understanding or grasping that is pretty entertaining. The international community, the people you actually believe support the hoax, know full well this is going on and is doing nothing. But…they’re not true believers anyway, they just want mor control.
The world’s need for power grows by the size of Brazil, every year. That is just to meet demand, Tasty. So keep focusing on that tree, you’re good at it.
You will note two universal conservative truths: (1), they instinctively dismiss anything they perceive as progressive even at the expense of their health and pocketbook; and (2) they encourage and seize upon the pronouncements of religious leaders, except when religious leaders, like the Pope, express a “progressive” view. Then they decry the intrusion of religion into “political” issues.
Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Lancer, we just got behind on comment moderation. No conspiracy here…~FL
Why haven’t my responses been published? There was not any bad language and no name calling. There were significant points made and need to be out there. If you are trying to allow good debate, by both sides, these need to be put up. Otherwise, it would look like you all attempt to control civilized debate favoring one particular side.
Lancer, I do agree that it is unwise and unfair for the U.S. To act unilaterally or even only with strategic allies in severely reducing fossil fuel emissions over the next twenty years… And that is why Democrats especially have lobbied consistently for two decades already on this issue with other nations and have made some progress. People with weak excuses in this country (mostly rich republicans with energy company executive partnerships) and anyone dumb enough to vote for them are causing more harm than even China. China will continue to use the excuse that our Congress fails to act as a cause for their doing so. Leading by example also doesn’t have to hurt is economically as there are legitimate alternative fuel sources that are the entire energy future of the world anyway. Big oil and gas companies are already investing in them but they want to milk one cow before moving onto another and that’s the problem with greed….
While I enjoy the economic arguments I have heard, none of them are soundly reasoned on fact, merely supposition. In truth, supposition and cynicism are the corp of right-wing bro conservative media and rhetoric. Neither are interested in a solution that would hurt their investments regardless of morality.
The fact is that mankind is causing an exponentially growing rate of CO2 buildup in the ozone and we have the power to slow this process down considerably. What we don’t have a lot of is time to whine about how hard that might be.
…and there it is, the descent into rhetoric. Especially, in the face of thousands of coal power plants being built internationally and the understanding that domestic policy prevents nothing.
Thank you, Pat76, in fact thank all of you leftist hoax believers. My guess is you researched India and China and gazed, forlorn, at reality. “Big Oil and Gas” are two of the most heavily federally regulated industries we have in the country. Nice try, find another boogie man.
You have your beliefs, yet you can’t understand or want the consequences of implementing policy.
Not to worry, it’s not the first time yours have been stumped by the Law of Unintended Consequences. On this matter, you support the Pope. Yet, tomorrow you’ll come for his throat when he announces his and the Catholic church’s support of Pro-life and opposition to gay marriage.
The left is a walking tragedy to easily swayed by emotional whims.
We all have to die of something, Pat, pass the sun tan lotion.