A new study has tried to find out how humankind would react to environmental change in the third stage of the Anthropocene Epoch, a tough period for the environment that the Earth is going to face next.
This study was published in the latest issue of Ambio - a journal of the human environment.
The Anthropocene Epoch refers to the most recent period in human history, when the activities of the human race first began to have a significant global impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems.
Currently, the world is going through stage 2 of this period, which is known as 'The Great Acceleration'.
According to the report in the journal, the problems that the Earth faces in this stage are enormous as it attempts to pass through a bottleneck of continued population growth, excessive resource use, and environmental deterioration. In fact, the problem is so severe that in most parts of the world, the demand for fossil fuels overwhelms the desire to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The third stage of the Anthropocene is defined as the recognition that human activities are indeed affecting the structure and functioning of the Earth System as a whole.
To find out how would human beings face environmental challenges in this third stage, the new study reviews three broad philosophical approaches that address the Earth System.
In this third stage, the three approaches to combat environmental degradation are namely the business-as-usual approach, mitigation, and geo-engineering options.
The business-as-usual approach is based on three assumptions.
First, global change will not be severe or rapid enough to cause major disruptions. Second, the existing market-oriented economic system can deal autonomously with any required adaptations. And third, resources required to mitigate global change proactively would be better spent on more pressing human needs.
But, by the time humans realize that a business-as-usual approach may not work, the world will be committed to further decades or even centuries of environmental change.
The second approach, mitigation, is an alternative pathway into the future based on the recognition that the threat of further global change is serious enough that it must be dealt with proactively. Here, technology will play a strong role in reducing the pressure on the Earth System.
The third approach, geo-engineering, involves purposeful manipulation by humans of global-scale processes with the intention of counteracting human-driven environmental change.
But, geo-engineering solutions raise serious ethical questions and intense debate, such as when unintended and unanticipated side effects of the solutions have severe consequences.