environment | December 10, 2013

The Climate Change "Tipping Point": Laurence C. Smith Co-Authors Influential Study

Environment speaker Laurence C. Smith is the co-author of an important new study on climate change—Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises. The study and its authors have been featured on NPR, Scientific American, CNN, and National Geographic, among others. As the New York Times writes, "Nasty climate surprises have occurred already, and more seem inevitable, perhaps within decades, panel members warned. But, they said, little has been done to prepare." The outlook isn't totally bleak, though—the Times goes on to say "[the authors] hope many of these [changes] will happen slowly enough that society can adapt."

What is the immediate impact of climate change? How will our physical climate system, natural systems, and human systems be affected in the coming years? And what can we do to prepare ourselves for what's to come? The study asks—and answers—these important questions:

Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth's atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world's nations, it is clear that the planet will be warmer, sea level will rise, and patterns of rainfall will change. But the future is also partly uncertain—there is considerable uncertainty about how we will arrive at that different climate. Will the changes be gradual, allowing natural systems and societal infrastructure to adjust in a timely fashion? Or will some of the changes be more abrupt, crossing some threshold or "tipping point" to change so fast that the time between when a problem is recognized and when action is required shrinks to the point where orderly adaptation is not possible?

Laurence C. Smith is the Professor and Chair of Geography and Professor of Earth & Space Sciences at UCLA and author of The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future. In his keynotes, he presents a realistic, but not pessimistic view of our future. He provides audiences with both the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead, and how we can make the most of both. To book Laurence C. Smith as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.