Symposium to address climate change and extinction​​

A two-degree temperature shift could lead to environmental extremes and mass extinctions, experts warn

Peter Raven, PhD, the George Engelmann Professor Emeritus of Botany at Washington University, discusses climate change and the upcoming I-CARES symposium.

Two degrees. It seems like the slightest change in temperature, but experts agree a global temperature rise of two degrees Celsius could be the breaking point for climate change. If global temperatures warm more than that, odds increase for environmental extremes including super droughts and sea level rises unlike any we’ve ever seen.

World leaders are expected to discuss the two-degree threshold at the United Nations’ 21st conference on climate change this December in Paris.

In the meantime, some of the world’s leading figures in climate change research will gather at Washington University in St. Louis Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10-11, to examine and reassess this threshold and what it could mean to future biodiversity.

Hosted by the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES), the Symposium on Biological Extinctions and Climate Change will take place at Hillman Hall on the Danforth Campus.

Two leading figures in climate change research are organizing the conference: Peter H. Raven, PhD, the George Engelmann Professor of Botany Emeritus in Arts & Sciences and president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden; and Camille Parmesan, PhD, the National Marine Aquarium Chair in the Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health at the University of Plymouth, U.K.

Raven and Parmesan have assembled a panel that includes experts from around the world, including South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom. The discussion will focus on rapid climate change and how it’s poised to impact population and species’ extinctions.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its most recent addition of its report estimated that global warming alone could drive a third of all species and organisms in the world to extinction before the end of this century,” Raven said. “We realize how bad the situation is and how unconscionable it is to let global warming run away from us when it will cause so much more harm and misery in the future.”

The symposium’s final session, the 2015 Albert P. and Blanche Y. Greensfelder Lecture presented by Guy Midgley, PhD, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, is free and open to the public. Midgley’s talk takes place at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, in Hillman Hall’s Maxine Clark and Bob Fox Forum.