GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 259-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


LYON, Christopher J.1, HILL, Daniel J.1, ALLEN, Bethany J.1, BECKERMAN, Andrew P.2, BURKE, Ariane M.3, O'HIGGINS, Paul4, RIEL-SALVATORE, Julien3, SAUPE, Erin E.5, SPORTON, Deborah6 and WEBB, Tom J.2, (1)School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom, (2)Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, United Kingdom, (3)Department of Anthropology, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC QCH3T 1N8, Canada, (4)Department of Archaeology, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom, (5)Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3AN, United Kingdom, (6)Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, United Kingdom

We describe the initial outcomes here of the multi-disciplinary Refugia of Futures Past project, which draws on a range of geoscientific and anthropological evidence and methods to explore the human presence on Earth beyond 2100. Current research strongly suggests that anthropogenic environmental changes are pushing the Earth’s climate and ecosystems into regimes that more closely resemble extremes of the deep past than any period relevant to modern humans. The deeper past includes periods of extreme heating, cooling, mass extinction and large-scale species range shifts. For hominin populations, less extreme climate change, such as during periods of glaciation, led to retreats to refugia. However, despite the copious paleontological and archaeological research exploring hominin and other organisms’ responses to these past ecological changes, the scope of the human occupation on future Earth is very poorly addressed. Current efforts exploring human adaptation to environmental changes typically explore near futures to the somewhat arbitrary date of 2100 and thus fail to account for inevitable ecological changes continuing beyond this point. Combining current climate modelling with archaeological and paleontological knowledge allows us to scope future ecological conditions and baselines beyond 2100. Through a strong foundation in environmental geoscience, we provide a scientifically grounded description of future changes beyond 2100, which can help us reframe the present scientific and public discourse on adaptation, such as those informing the IPCC Assessment Reports and various contemporary adaptation strategies.