Beyond tipping points: fire and the changing face of planet Earth

In honour of Greta Thunberg

The scale and rate of global warming have been underestimated. Paleoclimate evidence suggests that no event since 56 million years ago, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), has been as extreme as the atmospheric disruption since the industrial age about 1750 AD and in particular since the mid-20th century. Emission of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere more than 48 percent the original concentration.

The current fire storms engulfing large parts of the continents, including Australia, constitute manifestations of droughts and global warming reaching higher than +1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures on land and higher than +2.3 degrees Celsius in the polar regions, which control temperatures of large parts of the Earth.

The consequent migration of climate zones toward the poles renders temperate climate zones subject to increased droughts and extensive fires, as is the case in Australia, South Africa and southern Europe. The triggering of amplifying feedbacks of greenhouse gases renders drawdown of atmospheric CO2 essential.

Dr Andrew Glikson, an Earth and paleo-climate scientist, graduated at the University of Western Australia. He has conducted geological surveys of the oldest geological formations in Australia, South Africa, India and Canada, studied large asteroid impacts, including effects on the atmosphere and the oceans, the effects of fire on human evolution and the mass extinction of species.

Professor Stephen Eggins, Director of Research School of Earth Sciences, will deliver introduction.