Jonathan Cowie was the Institute of Biology’s publication manager from the late 1980s through to the early 2000s, and also, for a while, its head of science policy. On Thursday 14th November he will be delivering a talk, hosted by the London branch of the Society of Biology at Charles Darwin House, in which he explores the threat climate change has on the biological systems we are so dependent upon. Visit our events page if you are interested in booking your place.
The headlines are (rightly) full of the need to cut emissions but climate change has its biological dimensions too. As we (humans) are biological creatures, relying on biological systems, we need to attend to this too!
That we rely on biological systems is evident by many things including our mundane weekly shop. More extreme weather events are anticipated with global warming and one of these (in 2008) caused a spike in the price of peas that soared to a point where for several weeks they were double what they were before the event. Such food hikes may seem of little consequence to us, but when affecting global staples (such as rice the same year) they are critical to the many millions living on less than US$2 a day.
Of course, extreme weather events are not the same as extreme climate change, yet the past is revealing. 55 million years ago, at the beginning of the Eocene, there was a 100,000-year warm spike in the geological record caused by a surge in greenhouse gas.
Today we are seeing species move slowly towards the poles. Meanwhile at the Arctic summer sea ice continues to break new minimum levels of extent and there is talk of opening up the NW passage to cargo sea traffic. Yet are those bravely conserving species in our bog nature reserves (such as National Parks) in different countries talking to each other? Such is the rate of change, and with tree species taking decades to grow, we need to start thinking about giving species a helping hand migrate.
Jonathan Cowie is the author of a new expanded edition (2013) of Climate Change: Biological and Human Aspects. The first edition (2007) received favourable reviews including being cited by the United Nations Environment Programme as one of the best climate change textbooks of the 21st century.
Attached: Picture cover Climate Change: Biological and Human Aspects.
Picture – author/speaker Jonathan Cowie