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Michael Raupach: How humans shape the climate and carbon cycle


Diagram adapted from U.S. DOE, Biological and Environmental Research Information System.

Diagram adapted from U.S. DOE, Biological and Environmental Research Information System.

A seminar with Michael Raupach on the 23rd of September 2013. Raupach talks about how to understand our home planet and shape our shared evolution, humanity now has to think across multiple intersecting dimensions (natural, economic, social, cultural). Here Michael Raupach presents and attempts to synthesise perspectives from two of these dimensions.

1. The generic responses of climate and the carbon cycle to human influence: Under an exponentially growing forcing (such as CO2 emissions), the initial response of the carbon-climate system is also approximately exponential, with the same growth rate. This basic fact broadly explains many features of the current behavior of the system, including the near constancy of the CO2 airborne fraction and the near-linear relationship between cumulative emissions and warming (the basis of the “carbon budget” approach to setting climate mitigation targets). However, these linear relationships are vulnerable to breakdown in future as the system is disturbed progressively more. Such breakdowns – some of which are observed already – provide one measure of the global vulnerability of the Earth System to anthropogenic disturbance.

2. The role of narrative in shaping human-environment interactions: Natural science (as in the first part of this talk) is only one of the worldviews shaping the evolution of Planet Earth and its human crew: equally important in the present epoch are human behaviours and the forces that shape them. It may be useful to see these behaviours as guided by “narratives” (deep stories empowering actions) that are governed by the evolutionary mechanisms of diversification, selection and adaptation, akin to natural evolution. In shaping our shared future, the evolutionary contest between “expansion” and “sustenance” narratives is just as important as the dynamics of the natural world.

To read more about Michael Raupach and this seminar, please see below link.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre is a new international centre that advances transdisciplinary research for governance of social-ecological systems with a special emphasis on resilience – the ability to deal with change and continue to develop. It is a joint initiative between Stockholm University, the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The centre is funded by the Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, Mistra.