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Published on Sep 30, 2016

2014 Fall Meeting

Section: Global Environmental Change

Session: Schneider Lecture and the Tyndall History of Global Environmental Change Lecture


Redmond, K T, Western Regional Climate Center, Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute Reno, Reno, NV, United States


We live in a unique period in the history of the earth. A variety of indicators that describe characteristics of the global environment are following exponential trajectories, all rising together and all close to a point of rapid steepening. Furthermore, these curves are entangled and correlated; nearly all are tied in some manner to the human population curve. The challenge of finding solutions to the associated environmental and social problems seems almost insurmountable. The many human factors that have led to our domination on earth, and to this situation, must in turn be the same qualities that need to be better understood and then employed to work beyond those situations. Among these are our ability to form scenarios and act on them, and to predict, an ability that shows continued advances. Humans and other animals are quite adept at linearizing around the current moment and acting on limited short-term projections derived therefrom. For several reasons we are much less skillful at reacting to acceleration in the world around us, a feature we increasingly encounter. The prediction problem is so complex that for the foreseeable future we must rely strongly on observations and their analysis. To cope, new modes of understanding are required. The pace of cultural evolution now swamps that of genetic evolution (though the legacy of the latter still thoroughly pervades our lives). Networking is a crucial component of future progress. Knowledge is essential, and its continued acquisition must be vigorously advocated, across the entire spectrum of natural (physical) and social science and the humanities. Especially important in the sciences is continued improvement in the ability to bridge across disciplines to better integrate knowledge. In the face of so many simultaneous great challenges, there are well-grounded reasons for optimism, to be elaborated. This talk will draw from a variety of viewpoints and authors, and hopefully invoke the spirit of its gifted namesake, John Tyndall (1820-1893), and his passions for understanding the nature of the physical world, for mountaineering, and for tireless devotion to the communication of science and its findings to wide public audiences and to students.

Cite as: Author(s) (2014), Title, Abstract GC43D-02 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 15-19 Dec.

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