Scientists warn: world in serious overshoot of limits on chemical pollution

New study assesses a planetary boundary for chemical pollution (aka 'novel entities') for the first time

In a new study, entitled "Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities", an international team of Earth-system scientists has concluded that humanity is currently overshooting a newly assessed planetary boundary for chemical pollution (also known as 'novel entities').

The research team, led by Linn Persson at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, concludes that the rate at which chemical pollutants are appearing in the environment far outstrips humanity's ability to assess global and regional risks, let alone control any potential problems. 

To reach this conclusion, the team reviewed several lines of evidence, such as the rapid growth in the types of manufactured chemicals – estimated at more than 350,000 different types currently on the market – and growing production and waste volumes. Overall they document a 50-fold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950.

The planetary boundaries framework – which represents the scientific state-of-the-art in humanity's collective understanding of how to maintain the delicate balance of Earth's life-supporting systems – directly informs the Doughnut's ecological ceiling.

By updating the planetary boundaries framework, this study also updates the global Doughnut, and further underscores the urgent need for transformative action that pivots away from current degenerative systems of production, and towards far more regenerative ones.

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Image credit: Stockholm Resilience Centre/Azote




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