Public Lectures

Each year, AGCI hosts several public talks featuring leading global change researchers and practitioners. Presented by participants in AGCI’s signature workshop series, these lectures cover the gamut of global change topics from biodiversity threats to urban heat resilience to the history and future of Earth’s climate trajectory. AGCI’s public lecture series honors Walter Orr Roberts (1915-1990), noted humanitarian, scientist, and founder of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Climate Consequences of Land Management


Three quarters of ice-free land surface is managed for human use -- cleared for agriculture, grazed on, or used for forestry. This land use has accounted for one third of historical anthropogenic CO2 emissions globally, but it also affects climate locally by changing water and energy fluxes. Depending on type of land use change and where it takes place, the effect may be a warming or a cooling contribution to overall global climate. Whether land use change has a warming or cooling contribution to global climate change is crucially important. An improved understanding of the interplay between land use and climate can transform our thinking about how land management can serve as a mitigation strategy to curb climate change. In particular, land use choices such as afforestation, bioenergy production, and other options will likely play a prominent role in preventing the global climate from surpassing the 2-degree target of warming. This talk will illustrate different perspectives on past and future land use, considering impacts of both carbon and biogeophysical variables at local and global scales.

September 18, 2019
Aspen CO

Serving Up Science: Plant Genetics and the Future of Food


A major goal for food and agricultural research is to increase the resiliency of agricultural systems to adapt to rapid changes and extreme conditions. In this free public lecture hosted by the Aspen Global Change Institute, Dr. Pam Ronald (UC Davis) will describe how genetic approaches are being used to generate the next generation of crops that will help farmers thrive in these challenging conditions. This lecture is part of AGCI's Walter Orr Robert Public Lecture Series.

August 21, 2019
Aspen CO

Drought, Fire, and Flood: Monitoring and Modeling More Frequent Catastrophes


Dr. Chris Funk of the USGS and UC Santa Barbara explores the relationship between climate change, catastrophic events, and human response. Between 2015 and 2018 an unprecedented series of droughts, floods, fires, heat waves and hurricanes took the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people, resulting in over $700 billion dollars in damages, costs similar in magnitude to a large scale war. The frequency and costs of weather and climate related catastrophes are increasing dramatically, as a growing population and a warmer climate place more people in harm's way. Warming of the atmosphere can both increase the intensity of extreme precipitation and cyclones, while also increasing the impact of droughts and the extent of wildfires. Warming of the oceans can lead to coral bleaching and more intense wet or dry cycles. Against this back- drop of need, however, improved monitoring systems and models can help us improve our understanding of our physical, social and economic systems and help us manage risk and work towards a more sustainable future.

May 22, 2019
Aspen CO
November 13, 2018
Aspen CO

Storm Clouds With Silver Linings: Climate Change and Health in the Pacific


Sea level rise, storm surges, heatwaves, and increases in dengue and other infectious diseases are projected to increasingly affect the health of populations in the Pacific with global climate change. The risks will vary over time and place, challenging the ability of communities and health systems to adequately prepare. Further, these hazards will interact with other social and environmental trends, with the potential for increasing or decreasing the extent of the challenges. Effective and timely adaptation can increase the resilience of individuals and communities to what climate change brings. Further, reducing greenhouse gases and pursuing sustainable development goals through cutting emissions of air pollutants, increasing biking and walking, and changing dietary patterns can benefit health in the short-term and reduce the projected health risks of climate change in the longer-term. The magnitude and pattern of health risks over the coming decades depends on the choices we make navigating the course ahead.

May 22, 2018
Honolulu, HI

How a Sentence Changed Science: Lessons Learned from the 1995 Climate Report


In November 1995, after three days of deliberations in Madrid's Palacio de Congresas, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached the historic finding that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate". This sentence changed the world. While other individuals and national scientific organizations had reached similar conclusions before Madrid, the "discernible human influence" statement marked the first time that the international climate science community had spoken so clearly and forcefully.

The reaction was swift. The "discernible human influence" conclusion led to Congressional investigations, charges of "scientific cleansing" allegations of corruption of the peer-review process and professional misconduct, and claims of political tampering. Santer spent several years addressing such criticism. This lecture is a reflection on the top ten scientific and personal lessons Santer learned after publication of the IPCC's 1995 Report. Many of these lessons still have relevance in today's world.

August 1, 2017
Aspen CO

The Music in the Noise: Identifying the Jet Stream Response to Human Activity


Elizabeth Barnes loves noise - atmospheric noise that is. Her passion is sifting through geophysical data in search of previously undetected signals. She gets to do this every day, as well as teach the next generation of scientists techniques for doing so, as an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University. Her research covers a variety of questions related to atmospheric variability, including, "Can we forecast extreme weather 5 weeks in advance?" to "How does the atmosphere respond to volcanic eruptions?" Prof. Barnes and her fantastic research group have written over 40 papers on extracting atmospheric "music" from the "noise" across a range of past, present and future climates.

June 13, 2017
ACES, 100 Puppy Smith St, Aspen CO