Background & Context

Recent human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation, have dramatically increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to levels far in excess of the natural fluctuations that characterized the last few million years. The impact of such a change is not known with certainty, but the increasing global temperatures, frequency of floods and drought, and rising sea level are typical of a system undergoing change.

Past climate records show that the Earth’s temperature fluctuations mirror variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, as evident in records from the last four Ice Ages, and intervening warm periods. What is dramatic from past observations is how rapid the switch from one mode to the other can be; in certain instances abrupt change occurs in decades or even centuries. A key concern today is that the changes induced by human impact could lead to a comparable sudden switch in part of, or even the whole system.

This represents an outstanding threat in need of solutions! The creation of SAGES is the response of a group of scientists to this challenge. We aim to improve our understanding of how the Earth system works, and to improve our predictions of its potential response to human-induced changes, on both local and global scales.