Climate Change and Tomorrow's World (Presented by Lord Robert May)

Attached photograph of (L to R) Julian Vearncombe (Geosymposia), Lyn Beazley (Chief Government Scientist), Lord Robert May (Oxford), Suzy Urbaniak (AIG) and Don McFarlane (CSIRO).

Robert M. May (Lord May of Oxford, OM, AC, FRS) presented an insightful lecture on climate change as a combined AIG & CSIRO Land and Water Seminar.

Lord May presented the case of anthropogenic climate change and highlighted the key concepts of cooperation and sustainability, and how to support a growing population. The scope of the lecture covered humanity’s ecological footprint, population growth, and resources and the environment.

Lord May outlined the fact that increasing global population and our desire for energy has increased overall energy use by a factor of 50 over the past 150 years. Here in Australia we live well within the ecological bounds or “biocapacity” of the land, but our personal ecological footprint is vastly bigger than those in developing countries, where the lower biocapacity of the land is often exceeded. 

We were introduced to the concept of how the global population has grown since the start of the Holocene, and how population doubling time has varied. This introduced us to the evolution of cooperation, and how this had originally led to humans evolving from small groups of hunter – gathers to convening in larger co-habitations.

The talk went on to focus on several critical areas relating to population growth, and global sustainability. Lord May highlighted the need for freely available family planning in developing countries, and also highlighted how the education of women in developing countries is closely related to the average number of children they have. He hinted that perhaps women should rule the planet!

Concentrating on the environment, it was noted that the use of nitrogen based fertilizers in agriculture had increased by 600% from 1965 -2000, to keep up with the demand for food production. Alongside this, topics discussed were habitat loss, species extinction, changes in biodiversity and ecosystems, and the forecast availability of fresh water.

Lord May returned to his theme of the evolution of cooperation towards the end of the talk, and explained concept of the instability of the theme when people cheated. Summarising the session, Lord May reiterated the importance of cooperation within society and the need to live sustainably within parameters of what the planet can provide. A lively discussion session followed and continued on to the networking event afterwards.

This unique lecture was held on the 31st March in Perth and organized by the AIG, CSIRO and Geoscientists Symposia. The timing couldn’t have been better, considering that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) had just that day released their latest report; Climate change 2014: Impacts, Adaption and Vulnerability. 

Andrew Turner BSc GAIG MSEG (SJS Resource Management) 15-Apr-2014
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