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Earth’s Health Reaching Critical Tipping Point

March 24, 2010

Climate change is just one of the problems

With climate change at the front and center of today’s political debates, the other indicators of the Earth’s environmental health are not always top of mind in the public conscience.

Featured as part of the cover story of Scientific American magazine’s April issue, which hits newsstands on Wednesday, March 24, U of M professor Jon Foley makes the case for why we need to pay more attention to all environmental processes that contribute to the Earth’s health. In his article, “Boundaries for a Healthy Planet,” he argues that while climate change gets ample attention, species loss and nitrogen pollution exceed safe limits by greater degrees. In addition, other environmental processes such as ocean acidification and stratospheric ozone depletion are also moving toward dangerous thresholds.

Foley calls for swift action to address these developments and push back from planetary “tipping points” that would thrust the global environment and human life into dangerous new territory. First steps include promptly switching to low-carbon energy sources, curtailing land clearing and revolutionizing agricultural practices.

To listen to a podcast of Foley discussing this article and to view a video dramatizing the issues raised, visit http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=is-earth-past-the-tipping-point-2010-03-18.

Foley is director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Originally trained as an atmospheric scientist, he works primarily on the nexus of land use, agriculture and the global environment.

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