Speaker: Paul Crutzen

THE BREN SCHOOL OF Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



Dr. Paul Crutzen

Nobel Laureate

Max Planck Institute for Chemistry

Thursday, March 15, 2007

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Corwin Pavilion, University Center, UCSB

"An Atmospheric Experiment in the Anthropocene

Part of the Bren School's Eminent Speaker Series


Dr. Crutzen's Research Interests

• Global modeling of atmospheric chemical processes (2-D, 3-D) for troposphere, stratosphere, and lower  mesosphere.

• Interactions of atmospheric chemistry with climate

• Studies of the potential role of halogen photochemistry with ozone in the marine boundary layer

• Tropospherical chemistry, including the role of biomass burning in the tropics and subtropics

The title of Dr. Crutzen's talk refers to his proposal for a possible "escape route" from potentially out-of-control global warming. He suggests that it is possible to release light-reflecting sulphur particles into the upper atmosphere, which would redirect heat back to space, cooling the global climate.

Dr. Crutzen shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland for group's work in addressing the hole in the Earth's ozone layer. An emeritus professor at Utrecht University's Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in the Netherlands, he was trained as a civil engineer in Holland, then worked as a computer programmer for meteorological studies at the Meteorology Institute of Stockholm University in Sweden. He also earned the equivalent of a Master of Science there, focusing on mathematics, mathematical statistics, and meteorology. While earning his PhD in Stockholm, he became interested in the photochemistry of atmospheric ozone and wrote his dissertation on stratospheric chemistry. Dr. Crutzen has held many high-level positions, including those of senior scientist and director of the Air Quality Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, and executive director of the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany since 1980. He has co-authored more than a dozen books and published nearly three hundred articles in refereed journals.

Writing about what he and Eugene F. Stoermer have referred to as the "Anthropocene," the era when Earth's natural systems have become dominated by human activity, Crutzen says, "During the past two centuries, the global effects of human activities have become clearly noticeable. This is the period when data retrieved from glacial ice cores show the beginning of a growth in the atmospheric concentrations of several 'greenhouse gases,' in particular C02 and CH4. Such a starting date also coincides with James Watt's invention of the steam engine, in 1784. About at that time, biotic assemblages in most lakes began to show large changes.

"Without major catastrophes like an enormous volcanic eruption, an unexpected epidemic, a large-scale nuclear war, an asteroid impact, a new ice age, or continued plundering of Earth's resources by partially still-primitive technology, mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years, to come. To develop an accepted worldwide strategy leading to sustainability of ecosystems against human-induced stresses will be one of the great future tasks of mankind, requiring intensive research efforts and wise application of acquired knowledge. An exciting but also difficult and daunting task lies ahead of the global research and engineering community to guide mankind towards global, sustainable, environmental management.

Dr. Crutzen's ideas about the Anthropocene were mentioned in Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change, the book by Elizabeth Kolbert that was selected for the "UCSB Reads" and "Santa Barbara Reads" community reading projects leading up to Earth Day 2007.


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