Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future

Event Dates: 
May 15, 2015 -
1:00pm to 5:30pm

Summary: Our early ancestors evolved on a drying, cooling, and highly variable planet, which has led to competing ideas as to how climate may have shaped human evolution. Equally compelling is the question of how and when humans began to affect their surroundings to such an extent as to become a force of climate change, with disruptions affecting the globe today. According to earth scientists, paleontologists, and scholars in other fields, the planet has entered a new geological phase – the Anthropocene, the age of humans. How did this transition of our species from an apelike ancestor in Africa to the current planetary force occur?  What are the prospects for the future of world climate, ecosystems, and our species? This symposium presents varied perspectives on these critical questions from earth scientists, ecologists, and paleoanthropologists.

Event Sessions

Media for each talk can be played by clicking on icons in the "Media" column, or by clicking on the individual talk titles below and then the attachment file at the bottom of the page.

Date Media Session Title Speakers Abstract Location
Fri 5/15 File Welcome Ajit Varki Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Opening Remarks Charles Kennel Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File African Climate Change and Human Evolution Peter deMenocal

Analytical advances, new sediment archives, and heroic international collaborations have advanced our understanding of the role that climate change may have played in shaping major junctures in... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File The Climatic Framework of Neandertal Evolution Jean-Jacques Hublin

Neandertals represent the best documented group of Middle to Late Pleistocene archaic hominins. They are best documented in western Europe but have also been present at some point in their... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Climate Instability and the Evolution of Human Adaptability Rick Potts

How environmental dynamics may have shaped the adaptations of early human ancestors is one of the profound questions in the study of human evolution. A synthesis of African paleoclimate data... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Abrupt Climate Transitions and Humans Jeff Severinghaus

Rainfall patterns at low latitudes shifted abruptly northward 14,700 years ago, and again 11,700 years ago. From studies of ice cores and tree rings, it is clear that these transitions were... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File How Humans Took Control of Climate William Ruddiman

Until the last decade, the consensus opinion had been that significant human effects on greenhouse gases and climate began during the Industrial Era (the last 200 years). But this paradigm is... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File The Impacts of Arctic Sea Ice Retreat on Contemporary Climate Charles Kennel

The El Nino event of 1998 caused a transition from growth in global temperature to nearly zero growth. This “hiatus” in warming occurred even though greenhouse gas emissions accelerated... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File A Tipping Point: Using the Past to Forecast Our Future Elizabeth Hadly

Earth’s environments are rapidly changing. Yet, animals evolved in the face of environmental change. Extracting the responses of animals to perturbations of the past is one of the best ways of... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Human Impacts: Will We Survive the Future? Naomi Oreskes

I was asked to speak to the question: Will we survive the future? The answer, of course, is yes. With the world population at 7 billion people, it is exceedingly unlikely that humans, as a... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 PDF icon
PDF icon
File
Climate Change Mitigation: In Pursuit of the Common Good Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Climate Change has become a defining problem threatening the future well being of humanity and the ecosystems. We find ourselves in this precarious position largely because scientific knowledge... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Wrap-up Rick Potts Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Question and Answer Session All Speakers Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 5/15 File Closing Remarks Margaret Schoeninger Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium