The next decade against environmental deterioration will be crucial

Alteration is occurring rapidly and its speed may be greater than other extinction events that the Earth has suffered. There are more than one million species in danger of disappearing.

The next decade against environmental deterioration will be crucial
The coming decade against environmental deterioration will be crucial. Photo by Anne Nygård / Unsplash

The changes that we as a civilization generate on Earth are lethal and fast, affecting all the species of the planet and its resources, warns the researcher of the Institute of Geology of the UNAM, Dante Morán Zenteno.

"We are provoking a catastrophic type of change quite accelerated, as rarely seen in history", says the doctor in Geophysics, on the occasion of the International Mother Earth Day, which is commemorated on April 22, and seeks to raise awareness about environmental problems, to make it sustainable for future generations.

The greatest concern is climate change, caused by actions such as the emission of carbon dioxide, which has increased from 300 to 400 parts per million from the pre-industrial period to date. In addition, it is estimated that close to one million species are in danger of becoming extinct in the coming decades, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The United Nations indicates that the well-being of today's youth and future generations depends on an urgent and clear break from current trends of environmental degradation, and the next decade will be crucial.

In that timeframe, society must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent compared to 2010 levels and reach net zero emissions by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, as indicated in the Paris Agreement. In addition, biodiversity must be conserved and restored, and pollution and waste generation must be minimized.

People do not perceive it daily, but there is data showing that the change is happening very fast and its speed may be even greater than other extinction events that the Earth has suffered.

The damage caused by the fall of a meteorite, in 24 hours, generated a catastrophic change in the planet. The increase in carbon emissions into the atmosphere in the last 200 years is also very rapid in geological terms, and if left unchecked could lead to a new catastrophic crisis for the biosphere.

Alterations affect adaptation processes. Perhaps man, supported by technology, can survive these modifications for a while, but geological records suggest that other species would suffer more serious consequences.

Today, for example, marine organisms and the environment of the oceans are damaged. There is no escape because the garbage we generate affects far-flung areas of the oceans and reefs on a global scale. Ocean acidification is also related to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which affects many organisms; food chains can be broken and with it, the balance that the Earth tries to have, from its gradual evolution.

The university expert indicates that this ephemeris seeks to make the population aware that this planet is the only one we have, it is our home and the global village.  "And we are all responsible for what happens" in the world.

Science and technology have advanced and missions to Mars are possible, but it is far from habitable. Its temperatures reach 80 degrees below zero and it has no magnetic field to protect us from radiation. Similarly, the Moon has no atmosphere and its temperatures are extreme. "Earth is the planet we have to save".

Citizens can contribute with actions aimed at having proper management of their waste and taking care of their energy consumption while governments are obliged to adopt measures against climate change to prevent further deterioration of the environment.

Information in the layers of the Earth

The researcher of the Department of Lithospheric Processes, of the Institute of Geology, points out that from this discipline, investigations and "readings" of ancient rocks, of the Earth's layers, are carried out, which reveal that the planet has had several crises that have led to massive extinctions of flora, fauna and other types of organisms.

One example is the clay layer between the rocks of the Cretaceous and Cenozoic periods, which indicates that there was a catastrophe on the planet related to the impact of a meteorite in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Five major environmental crises have been recorded in the Earth's Phanerozoic history and dozens of minor ones. Each is documented in the planet's rock layers. The one at the end of the Permian - which occurred 252 million years ago - is estimated to have extinguished more than 95 percent of the planet's species.

This event occurred due to gigantic eruptions in Siberia, which caused global warming and stagnation of ocean waters, which was lethal for marine organisms and those living above sea level.

Our planet has undergone gradual changes that are not harmful because species adapt or species more adapted to the environment emerge.

For example, in the Cretaceous, when the dinosaurs lived, average temperatures on the planet were up to five degrees above the current ones, but the change was gradual and organisms adapted.

In the pages of the Earth's history, which are these layers, if we lift them and turn them over like a book, we realize that there are many catastrophic events, caused by different factors, but the one we are producing is quite lethal and caused by the human species.