This book investigates the billion-year takeover of planet Earth by its organisms and ecosystems. Concluding Chapter 11 focuses on the Anthropocene, which is the period during which human societies had significant impacts on the Earth System, and considers key events that are happening in the twenty-first century and might happen afterwards. The chapter examines four main global anthropogenic perturbations of the Earth System – climate change, ocean acidification, the loss of biodiversity, and water and food insecurity – in terms of: their general mechanisms; the main human activities that contribute to these perturbations; and their feedbacks into the environment and human activities. It also explains the responses provided by adaptation and mitigation approaches to the ongoing global anthropogenic perturbations of the Earth System. The purpose of adaptation is to manage the unavoidable, and that of mitigation to avoid the unmanageable. Adaptation and mitigation are illustrated using sea level rise as example. The text then looks at possible states of the Earth System beyond the twenty-first century, which are: a long interglacial; a very long interglacial; shifting from the present icehouse conditions to those of a greenhouse; and crossing planetary thresholds, caused by runaway warming. The chapter concludes with considerations of what planet Earth would be without some of the key biological innovations that shaped the Earth System. This leads to the idea that humans should become the stewards of their unique planet without delay, taking into account the imperative need to preserve both its habitability and biodiversity.
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Fig. 11.1a https://www.climate.gov/sites/default/files/paleo_CO2_2018_1500.gif, from https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide by NOAA, in the public domain. Some indications inside the figure removed, numbers on the X-axis changed, and titles of the two axes rewritten.
Fig. 11.1b Modified after https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2016/11/09/a-new-study-concludes-warm-climate-is-more-sensitive-to-changes-in-co2/. Courtesy of Drs. Tobias Friedrich and Axel Timmermann, University of Hawaii.
Fig. 11.2 Modified after Fig. 1.5h of Abram et al. (2019). With permission from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Fig. 11.3 Modified after Fig. 3B of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Díaz et al. 2019). The IPBES knowledge products are free and open to use.
Fig. 11.4a https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Global_Water_Security.jpg by Sampa, https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gebruiker:Sampa, used under CC BY-SA 4.0. Some text inside the map removed.
Fig. 11.4b This work, Figure 11.4b, is a derivative of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Percentage_population_undernourished_world_map.PNG by Lobizón at English Wikipedia, use under GNU FDL and CC BY-SA 3.0. Figure 11.4b is licensed under GNU FDL and CC BY-SA 3.0 by Mohamed Khamla.
Fig. 11.5 https://www.pngfuel.com/free-png/efjbt. PNGFuel is an open platform for users to share cutout PNGs; all PNGs in PNGFuel are for Non-Commercial use, no attribution required.
Fig. 11.6 Illustration showing impacts of increasing carbon dioxide on the oceans by David Fierstein © 2007 MBARI. With permission from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
Fig. 11.7 Figure from page 87 of Misdorp (2011), developed in the framework of IPCC by groups of scientists and first published as Fig. 3 (black-and-white) of Bijlsma et al. (1992). With permission from the Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC).
Fig. 11.8 Map “Sea Level Rise” © 2017 Richard J. Weller, Claire Hoch, and Chieh Huang, Atlas for the End of the World http://atlas-for-the-end-of-the-world.com. With permission from Prof. Richard J. Weller, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
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Bertrand, P., Legendre, L. (2021). The Global Earth System: Present and Future. In: Earth, Our Living Planet. The Frontiers Collection. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67773-2_11
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