By 2025, just 13 years from now, humans will have modified half of all the land on Earth. We will have turned space that once supported complicated systems of plants, animals, soils, water and microbes into cities or farms. Already, we’ve taken over 43 percent of the land. What’s left is mostly criss-crossed by our roads. By 2060, 70 percent of the earth’s surface could be covered with human development.
According to the group of more than 20 scientists responsible for these observations, published this week in Nature, these shifts could also be pushing the Earth toward a tipping point — a round of irreversible planet-wide changes. …
Here’s a taste of what could be coming. Within a century, “climates that contemporary organisms have never experienced are likely to cover 12-39% of Earth,” the scientists report. Sooner than that, by 2070, the average global temperature “will be higher than it has been since the human species evolved.” Shifts like the one the report considers have meant that not only do certain species face extinction, but new varieties of creatures begin to thrive. From a human perspective, though, the most important changes will be to the resources we depend upon for survival. Within a few generations, the forests, fisheries and agricultural systems that feed us could change so much they’ll no longer be able to support our species in the fashion to which we’ve become accustomed.