Taking Stock of Climate Change: Earth, Air, Fire and Water

The climate of planet Earth depends on the energy balance between incoming radiation from the Sun and re-radiation from the planet. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, like water vapour and carbon dioxide, are crucial in retaining heat: too depleted and the planet cools, once being a `snowball' with glaciation in Death Valley, whereas excessive GHGs lead to very warm periods like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) about 50 million years ago. Past climate change was from natural forces, including plate tectonics and volcanism. Life has survived such great changes and thrived in very different global temperatures, but en route huge numbers of species went extinct from climate change, even if long after, different species evolved and adapted to the new environment. Thus, change is the key word: and humanity is now changing the climate by its vast emissions of greenhouse gases, especially from burning fossil fuels. Noting the Earth's limited available land, atmosphere and water resources shows humanity really can alter the climate, and is doing so in myriad ways. Earth, Air, Fire and Water have been ubiquitous concepts nearly globally from ancient times. Although they are not `elements', all four are `essential ingredients' of life. The talk discusses their roles in climate change, the dangers of precipitating an anthropogenic mass extinction, and actions humanity could take to avoid that.

Featured speakers: 

  • David F. Hendry, Kt, Co-director of Climate Econometrics; Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford University
  • Dr. Jennifer L. Castle, Official Fellow in Economics at Magdalen College, Oxford; Associate Member of Climate Econometrics, Oxford University
  • Sunil Sharma, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Economic Policy, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University
  • James E. Foster, Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor of International Affairs, Professor of Economics, and Co-Director of the Institute for International Economic Policy at the George Washington University; Research Associate, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University
  • Ann Florini, Clinical Professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University

Learn more about the event speakers.

Sponsored By:

Institute for International Economic Policy

Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU Finance and Sustainability Series