The BBC reports that toxic chemicals in the environment are just as big a threat as climate change:
“Chemical pollution has officially crossed “a planetary boundary”, threatening the Earth’s systems just as climate change and habitat loss are known to do. A recent study by scientists from Sweden, the UK, Canada, Denmark and Switzerland highlights the urgent need to turn off the tap at source. Many toxic chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, don’t easily degrade. They can linger in the environment and inside us – mostly in our blood and fatty tissues – for many years.”
A couple of years ago, I heard a talk by Dr. Stuart Weiss, a field biologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He identified five major threats to the life-supporting systems of planet Earth:
1. Global climate change
2. Land use change (including deforestation and habitat destruction)
3. Invasive organisms
4. Toxication (including solids, like plastics, as well as chemicals)
I would add one more — nuclear war — for a total of six major threats to earth’s life-supporting systems.
Upper middle class Americans have focused on climate change as the major environmental threat. But even if we solve the climate change problem, any combination of the other five threats would also lead to a “great extinction.” This is why having everyone buy an electric car is not going to fix looming environmental disaster. My guess is that major systemic change is needed, probably involving replacing capitalism with an economic system that is not a-moral (or immoral).