Integrated Science for Sustainable Transitions

This is a Public Lecture, by Professor Will Steffen, a former Executive Director of IGBP and internationally acclaimed climate scientist.

The lecture will also act as a memorial to Dr. Mike Raupach, a co-founder of the Global Carbon Project, and one of the world’s leading climate change scientists and communicators, who sadly passed away on February 10th 2015.

This lecture discusses the tour of Earth System science which began in the 1980s, when a large body of research began to coalesce around the major components of the planetary environment. This natural-science-driven, bottom-up approach aims to understand the “planetary machinery”, and delivered new insights into the Earth’s major cycles, for example, water and carbon. Complex system science deepened our understanding, introducing concepts such as switch-and-choke points, abrupt changes, and limit cycles. Humans came sharply into the picture 15 years ago with Paul Crutzen’s introduction of the Anthropocene, the proposed new geological epoch of planet Earth. A few years later the Great Acceleration graphs showed that the human enterprise and the Earth System began to evolve in lock-step from the middle of the 20th century. New types of scholarship – the social sciences and economics – joined with natural scientists to explore the implications of the Anthropocene and the Great Acceleration. Finally, humanities scholars have added the critical knowledge that illuminates the development of our societies through time and explores our relationship to the rest of nature. Critically, they have challenged us with the simple but profound question: just where on Earth are we going?

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