How to save our species is the crucial question

Human behavior eliminates the Earth's capacity to self-regulate its processes. From 2010 to 2019, China, the USA, the EU, the UK, and India contributed 55 percent of greenhouse emissions. The crucial question is how to save our species.

How to save our species is the crucial question
The crucial question is how to save our species? Photo by Elena Mozhvilo / Unsplash

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have altered the dynamic balance of the world significantly. Although the emphasis is mainly focused on climate change, it is important to understand that the entire biosphere, including us, is affected, said Alejandro Frank Hoeflich, general coordinator of UNAM's Center for Complexity Sciences (C3).

Perhaps the crucial question for contemporary science is how we can save our species. "Due to the presence of enormous transformations in our habitat, transdisciplinary science is today more urgent than ever. Thus, the Complexity Sciences propose the construction of an integrative science capable of facing the changes that are already occurring," said the also emeritus researcher of the National University.

During the distance round table Climate Change: Facts and Consequences in Mexico, convened by C3, Frank Hoeflich, said: this is the most serious problem facing humanity.

New tools have opened up a panorama in which science can analyze, try to foresee, and mitigate the consequences of the great changes that have occurred on our planet, and in an accelerated manner during the last century.

Various phenomena, including global warming, are amplified by human activities and their social and economic policies. In addition to the inherent complexity of the biosphere, there are socioeconomic imbalances and the irrationality of the prevailing political systems, he warned.

Frank Hoeflich clarified that a broad imbalance of Gaia, on the planet, endangers the survival of our species, although this would not put an end to life.

Also presenting Juan Claudio Toledo Roy, from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences, the university expert added: that at C3 "we develop mathematical indicators to measure the 'health' of complex systems". In a paper in progress, we analyzed the global temperature record for the last 140 years.

We found several warnings, such as the loss of organization and self-regulatory capacity of the planet, and the decoupling of climate dynamics at different time scales. We are at a critical moment in which, due to human actions, we observe that the Earth, which tended to conserve temperature conditions, for example, has stopped doing so, said the also member of El Colegio Nacional.

The scientist said that there is greater temperature variability and more frequent extreme events. Continuing to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases is leading us to this terrible situation.


Andrea Saz Arroyo, the member of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, considered that no matter how many international agreements there are on climate change, such as Kyoto or Paris, "there is a very clear indicator that we have not been able to stop: human behavior that eliminates the Earth's capacity to self-regulate its biogeochemical and climatic processes".

In addition to the increase in the temperature and level of the oceans, there is an unforeseen effect: the deoxygenation of coastal systems. Marine life depends on physical phenomena and a key one is the upwelling or emergence of nutrient-rich waters from the seabed that causes a feeding "frenzy", from the smallest link in the food chain, the plankton, to the largest, the whales.

As sea temperatures rise, upwellings intensify and bring waters that were not rising to the surface, low in oxygen, to the coastal zone. "That's one of the effects of climate change that we hadn't understood, until very recently." It expands to the sites where 95 percent of the world's fisheries are produced, said the specialist.

Ocean acidification is also occurring; that is, the modification of the calcium carbonate available in the water, which is important because several organisms depend on it to form their skeletons, as is the case with reefs or mollusks.

Biodiversity, as we know it, which adapted and evolved to contribute to the Earth's self-regulation, is in danger. In the case of Mexico, fishing communities are exposed and susceptible to these changes; even worse, the current fishing management model does not allow adaptation to the new environmental conditions, said Saenz Arroyo.

Meanwhile, Gerardo Gil Valdivia, general director of the Center for Studies of the Federal Superior Audit Office, agreed that climate change is one of the global risks facing humanity and endangers its future.

The current concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) is the highest in at least two million years; sea-level rise has the fastest rates in at least three thousand years; the area of Arctic sea ice is at its lowest level in a thousand years and the retreat of glaciers is unprecedented in at least a millennium, with effects such as extreme heat, heavy rains, drought, forest fires, in addition to warming and acidification of the oceans.

From 1990 to 2015, five percent of the world's richest population was responsible for 36.3 percent of the increase in CO2 emissions, and if 10 percent of the wealthiest people are considered the level of pollutants rises to 45.5 percent. In contrast, the poorest 50 percent generated 5.6 percent. In addition, from 2010 to 2019, China, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and India contributed 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Hence the importance of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, is to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, and thus prevent the gradual and catastrophic collapse effects produced by global warming, concluded Gil Valdivia.