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WHOI Waypoints: Gagosian Facilitates Abrupt Climate Change Discussion

Much of the discussion of climate in recent years has focused on greenhouse gases and gradual warming of Earth on a global scale. But research suggests that global temperature changes can produce unpredictable and counter-intuitive results. The geologic record shows that, in the past, temperatures in some regions have swung by 3 to 6°C (6 to 10°F) in time spans as short as a decade. What would happen to modern economies, agriculture, and public health if, for instance, average temperatures in Europe and the American Northeast suddenly cooled by six degrees?

Such scenarios were the focus of a panel discussion that included WHOI President and Director Bob Gagosian at the World Economic Forum in January in Davos, Switzerland. In a session entitled “Abrupt Climate Change—Should We Be Worried?” Gagosian and colleagues pondered the environmental, social, and economic repercussions of a drastic shift in regional climate. Gagosian was joined in the conversation by Mario Molina, Nobel Prize winner and MIT atmospheric chemist, and Yolanda Kakabadse Navarro, President of The World Conservation Union.

The annual World Economic Forum attracts two thousand political, business, and academic leaders from around the world to broad-based discussions of economic, political, environmental, and societal issues. In addition to the climate change sessions, Gagosian also participated in two other science- and environment-related panels: “Setting the Scene—Update on the Environment” and “Legal Implications of Climate Change.” This was the third consecutive year that Gagosian, a forum fellow, was a panelist at the meeting.

Click here to download a brochure on Abrupt Climate Change prepared for the Forum.

Originally published: March 1, 2003