Past global changes as indicators for future changes and strategies for sustainability

Organizer: Marie-France Loutre, Peter Gell, Katrin Meissner, Boris Vannière
Format: Online, Evening

International reports on climate (e.g. IPCC) and Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) describe the unprecedented changes that occurred over the last few decades to the Earth system. However, climate and living conditions have changed in Earth’s history. Therefore it is important to identify the correct reference point or at least to be aware of how humans are shaping climate and ecosystems. Paleoclimate research is interested since many decades in identifying baseline of changes, thresholds, and upper limits to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. A similar approach is used in palaeoecology and palaeogeography about e.g. fire, waterway condition, ocean productivity, coastal stability, terrestrial biodiversity. Although the multiple impacts of climate and human activities make projection of changes difficult, long-term reconstructions of past changes can disentangle natural and anthropic causes. Studying past changes and their impacts on ecosystems and human societies can provide insights into potential future changes and their impacts on living conditions, give some clues on the resilience and transformations of systems under changing boundary conditions, and facilitate identification of thresholds of potential concern and safe operating space (away from threshold value or dangerous level). Past flood or fire conditions; impact of fire, droughts, floods, and volcanic activity on societies in the past; consequences of volcanic eruption as an analogue to geoengineering, are a few amongst the many examples showing how information from the past can be used for future projections and sustainability. We welcome contributions presenting concrete examples of past changes that can shed light on future changes. The session will be organized around key questions: 1. Which paleo-information can inform on risk for ecosystems and societies? 2. How can we transform paleo-data into understandable products for partners, practitioners and policy makers? 3. What insights from paleo-perspectives can we use to support decision-making?

Themes: Knowledge-to-Action