Spring 2018: Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

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Class 2 (01/10/2018): The Baseline: Past Climate and Global Change

Class slides


Based on the paleo-record over the last 800,000 years and more, we can construct a baseline “normal range” for long-term climate variability. Compared to this baseline, climate was exceptionally stable during the Holocene, the most recent geological epoch that began 11,700 years ago. With this stability, the Holocene provided a “safe operating space for humanity” (SOSH) and the development of civilization, as we know it. Sea level has been exceptionally stable during the last 6,000 years allowing humanity to build large permanent settlements in the coastal zone and to benefit from the many ecosystem services and logistical advantages the coastal zone has to offer. The experience of the past has created the paradigms that climate is relatively stable, that sea level does not change very much, and that the coastline is rather stable over time. The way we built infrastructure and coastal protections and how we utilize the coastal zone is based on these paradigms.

Reading List

Sustainable development:

Griggs et al., 2013


Syvitski, 2012

Steffen et al., 2016

Williams et al., 2016

Global boundaries:

Rockström et al., 2009

Steffen et al., 2015

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