Chemistry must respond to the crisis of transgression of planetary boundaries
Recent assessments alarmingly indicate that many of the world's leading chemicals are transgressing one or more of the nine planetary boundaries, which define safe operating spaces within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. The unfolding crisis cannot be ignored and there is a once-in-a-century opportunity for chemistry – the science of transformation of matter – to make a critical difference to the future of people and planet. How can chemists contribute to meeting these challenges and restore stability and strengthen resilience to the planetary system that humanity needs for its survival? To respond to the wake-up call, three crucial steps are outlined: (1) urgently working to understand the nature of the looming threats, from a chemistry perspective; (2) harnessing the ingenuity and innovation that are central to the practice of chemistry to develop sustainable solutions; and (3) transforming chemistry itself, in education, research and industry, to re-position it as ‘chemistry for sustainability’ and lead the stewardship of the world's chemical resources. This will require conservation of material stocks in forms that remain available for use, through attention to circularity, as well as strengthening engagement in systems-based approaches to designing chemistry research and processes informed by convergent working with many other disciplines.
- This article is part of the themed collections: A collection of papers from RSC journals on chemistry and the circular economy, Editor’s Choice: Vincent Artero, 2022 ChemSci Pick of the Week Collection, 2022 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection, 2022 Chemical Science Perspective & Review Collection and Sustainable Laboratories