Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future

Our early ancestors evolved on a drying, cooling, and highly variable planet, which has led to competing ideas as to how climate may have shaped human evolution. Equally compelling is the question of how and when humans began to affect their surroundings to such an extent as to become a force of climate change, with disruptions affecting the globe today. According to earth scientists, paleontologists, and scholars in other fields, the planet has entered a new geological phase - the Anthropocene, the age of humans. How did this transition of our species from an apelike ancestor in Africa to the current planetary force occur? What are the prospects for the future of world climate, ecosystems, and our species? This symposium presents varied perspectives on these critical questions from earth scientists, ecologists, and paleoanthropologists. (from

Image: Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future

1. African Climate Change and Human Evolution
Peter deMenocal of Columbia University on cycles of African climate change and its effect on human evolution.

2. The Climatic Framework of Neanderthal Evolution
Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology on the climatic framework of Neandertal evolution.

3. Climate Instability and the Evolution of Human Adaptability
Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution addresses how climate instability affected the evolution of human adaptability.

4. Abrupt Climate Transitions and Humans
Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego addresses Abrupt Climate Transitions and Humans.

5. How Humans Took Control of Climate
William Ruddiman of the University of Virginia on how humans took control of climate.

6. The Impacts of Arctic Sea Ice Retreat on Contemporary Climate
Charles Kennel of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego addresses the impacts of Arctic sea ice retreat on contemporary climate.

7. A Tipping Point? Using the Past to Forecast Our Future
Elizabeth Hadly of Stanford University delivers a sobering accounting of evidence that forecasts a climatic tipping point and what it may mean to our future.

8. Human Impacts: Will We Survive the Future?
Renowned historian of science Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University addresses the question of human impacts on climate and whether we will survive the future, and posits that humanity will need to make substantial change in what we do and how we think.

9. Climate Change Mitigation: In Pursuit of Common Good
Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego addresses efforts towards mitigation of climate change.

Related Links
The Great Human Odyssey
This is a three-part CBC documentary series hosted by anthropologist Niobe Thompson, exploring the unlikely survival and the miraculous emergence of Homo sapiens as the world's only global species.
The Incredible Human Journey
This is a BBC documentary series presented by Alice Roberts, explaining the evidence for the theory of early human migrations out of Africa and subsequently around the world.
Planet of the Apemen
This is a BBC dramatised documentary on the struggles of Homo sapiens with Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.
Ancient DNA and Human Evolution
Ancient DNA data have provided unprecedented insights into the recent history of our species. In particular, methodological improvements and innovations over the last ten years have advanced our ability to recover small fragments, target specific sequences, identify damage patterns, and obtain genome scale data.
Unique Features of Human Skin
The skin is the major interface between the human body and its environment. It supports diverse and complex functions from protection to vitamin photosynthesis, thermoregulation, and communication.
The Evolution of Human Biodiversity
This is a series of videos on the evolution of human biodiversity from CARTA (Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny).