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What Awaits Us in the Greenhouse World

Public Lecture at UC Riverside to Focus on What Awaits Us in the Greenhouse World

Geologist Martin Kennedy will discuss reasons and evidence for climate change

(March 22, 2010)

Martin Kennedy is a professor of geology at the University of California, Riverside.  Photo credit: Kennedy lab, UC Riverside.Enlarge

Martin Kennedy is a professor of geology at the University of California, Riverside. Photo credit: Kennedy lab, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Climate change represents one of the greatest scientific challenges to our civilization. Scientists say there is much at risk if we do not understand the outcome of the present level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Geologist Martin Kennedy will give a free public lecture at UC Riverside on climate change, in which he will lay out some of the reasons and evidence for climate change, explain some of the basic controls, and give some examples of how fast and how much climate typically changes in Earth history.

The lecture, titled “What Awaits Us in the Greenhouse World,” will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 8, in Room 302, Highlander Union Building (formerly the Commons). Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Seating is open.

“The present increase in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide will place us with several times preindustrial levels within this century,” said Kennedy, a professor of geology in UCR's Department of Earth Sciences and the director of its Global Climate & Environmental Change Program. “There is much debate about how much this will change climate. This is not the first time in Earth history that greenhouse gas concentrations will have been this high, however, and I am interested in what the climate was like the last time they rose to this level. It was radically different with no ice on the poles and alligators comfortably living in the arctic.”

Kennedy’s hour-long lecture will end with a question-and-answer session.

“In my talk, I will discuss a particular mechanism that kicks in during warming phases that results in a rapid runaway greenhouse condition that I have personally been researching for the last five years,” he said.

At UCR, Kennedy’s research in climate change involves mechanisms that are not evident today but can or will be triggered by present rates of warming.

“These mechanisms drive the climate rapidly to a new state that is utterly unlike the present climate,” he said. “We commonly refer to that alternative climate state as the ‘greenhouse world’ and it is important to identify the thresholds beyond which that greenhouse world becomes inevitable.”

Kennedy obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Adelaide, after which he was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, the Rubey Fellow at UCLA and a senior research geologist at Exxon before coming to UCR in 2000. He has published in a broad range of fields in the Earth sciences and is well known for his work in past changes in environment as it has impacted life on Earth.

His talk is being hosted by UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and the Science Circle, a group of university and community members committed to advancing science at UCR and in Inland Southern California.

The talk is the first of five lectures scheduled this year. The lecture series, titled “Global Climate Change: Causes, Impacts, Solutions,” aims to boost the public's awareness and understanding of climate change and of how science works.

More information about the lecture series can be obtained by visiting, calling (951) 827-6555 or emailing Carol Lerner.

Teachers interested in receiving professional development credit for attending the lecture series must make arrangements in advance with University Extension.

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The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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