The 21st century will throw up some major challenges for humanity, all of which need to be overcome to ensure life on Earth continues to thrive. Some of the problems humanity faces include global warming, the booming population which is set to reach 10 billion by 2050, extreme weather events which will be exacerbated by climate change and the dwindling stores of freshwater supply, to name a few issues.
A survey which questioned 200 scientists found that as these issues are all occurring at the same time, they are exacerbating one another which is creating a vicious cycle that humanity needs to tackle.
For example, the report states heatwaves caused by extreme weather lead to further global warming, accelerated by the planet releasing natural gasses, such as CO2 stored in the ice caps.
This in turn leads to a loss of biodiversity, which threatens the global food chain and natural resources.
The report, from Future Earth, lists five things which are the major problems humanity faces immediately.
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They are: Extreme weather, climate change, the decline of life-sustaining ecosystems, food security and dwindling stores of fresh water.
Maria Ivanova, a professor at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts, said these issues “have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse.”
The report states: “The global crises have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse.
“Many scientists and policymakers are embedded in institutions that are used to thinking and acting on isolated risks, one at a time.
“We call on the world’s academics, business leaders and policy makers to pay attention to these five global risks and ensure they are treated as interacting systems.”
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Melting ice is contributing to rising sea levels
Maria Ivanova, a professor at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts, said the issues “have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse.”
Amy Luers, Executive Director of Future Earth, said: “2020 is a critical time to look at these issues.
“Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective future.”
The planet is continuing to warm, with scientists stating the global temperature has risen by roughly 0.15-0.20C per decade.
This has led to the visible loss of ice in the polar caps but frozen water is also melting beneath the surface, scientists have warned.
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The poles are melting
Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer beneath the surface, which affects 18 million square kilometres in the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere.
The layer of ice contains rocks, soil, sand and stores the remains of plants and microbes which have been stored in the permafrost for millions of years.
However, with this means the carbon dioxide (CO2) from dead plants and microbes has also become trapped in Earth’s natural freezer – and with permafrost beginning to melt at an alarming rate, this CO2 will eventually be released into the atmosphere.
Current estimates suggest there is up to 1.5 trillion metric tons of carbon stored in permafrost.