When humanity first glimpsed planet Earth from space, the unity of the system that supports humankind entered the popular consciousness. The concept of the Earth's atmosphere, biosphere, oceans, soil, and rocks operating as a closely interacting system has rapidly gained ground in science. This new field, involving geographers, geologists, biologists, oceanographers, and atmospheric physicists, is known as Earth System Science.
In this Very Short Introduction, Tim Lenton considers how a world in which humans could evolve was created; how, as a species, we are now reshaping that world; and what a sustainable future for humanity within the Earth System might look like. Drawing on elements of geology, biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, Lenton asks whether Earth System Science can help guide us onto a sustainable course before we alter the Earth system to the point where we destroy ourselves and our current civilisation.
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Tim Lenton is a Professor at the University of Exeter, where he is also Chair in Climate Change and Earth Systems Science. His research focuses on understanding the behaviour of the Earth as a whole system, especially through the development and use of Earth system models. He worked closely with James Lovelock developing the Gaia theory and trying to reconcile it with evolutionary theory. His work identifying climate tipping points won the Times Higher Education Award for Research Projects of the Year 2008. His books include Revolutions that Made the Earth (OUP, 2013), which he co-authored with Andrew Watson.
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