• 2012 Program

  • Living in the New Normal

    How the planet is adapting?
    How we are adapting?
    How adapting does not mean accepting?

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released a new set of climate "normals" for the U.S., documenting that the country's long-term average temperature has warmed by half a degree in the last decade. What's true for the U.S. is true for the planet: it's a new-normal world as the increase in temperature creates a new environmental paradigm for which the planet and its people must adapt.  AEF 2012 will go deep into what these new normals mean and will address how the planet has adapted to human activity; How humans are adapting to planetary change; but how we can still prevent catastrophic change that exceeds our ability to adapt.

    You will come away from the forum with a greater understanding of the biggest issue of our time, and armed with tools and a renewed sense of hope for how to help build the planet’s resilience.

    The Planet Adapts to Us: What do these new climate “normals” mean? 

    We'll hear about the increase in extreme weather events, - from the heat wave and drought in Texas to the floods in Vermont, Pakistan and Bangkok – why they are happening and how to build resilience in the face of them. National Geographic Explorers in the field will bring us case studies of nature on the run with animals and plants migrating toward the poles and to the mountaintops, others that are adapting into hybrids, and of others that may not be able to adapt. Why are Bark beetles ravaging western forests, including on the slopes around Aspen, and is climate change responsible? How are the new normals affecting crop yields, water resources, things that thrive in our gardens, and what does this mean for the security of nutritious and plentiful food. We’ll also look at regions that might benefit from the changed climate from increasing crop yields to milder temperatures– sunbathing in Alaska anyone?

    We Adapt to the Planet: How are we coping with this change?

    What will the new population demographic look like with 9 billion people by mid-century? How do we ensure enough food and shelter for this extra 2 billion people and what does this increase mean for the new urban world? We’ll look at what is happening to cities as they concentrate the threat that climate change poses to people, yet they are also at the forefront of the response in the U.S and globally, especially as federal governments are resource constrained. We'll hear from representatives from New York, Miami, Amsterdam, Bangkok and other cities that are already planning for sea level rise and putting measures in place to sustainably support the new urban world.  We’ll hear about new “sustainable test cities” springing up in the U.S. Southwest and the Middle East. We’ll discuss how the tourism industry is coping with a changed climate, from the slopes to the beaches and what this means for your next vacation. Crop researchers will talk about the potential for engineering crops to adapt to the new normal. How are India and China planning for the loss of Himalayan glaciers? How are companies from the Insurance Sector to big Ag rethinking their business models in the face of the new normal?

    Adapting Does Not Mean Accepting: What do we do now, and how?

    We’ll hear new ideas and innovations to keep climate from warming beyond what we can adapt to. We’ll have big-picture debates: are people in the developed countries going to be forced to accept lower levels of consumption in the end, or can technology fix our lifestyles? How do we economically value the services that ecosystems provide to inhibit further encroachment into what remains of our natural world – does REDD provide a good example? Does energy-efficiency really makes a difference? Does anything that individuals do on their own make a difference, or is policy the only way to affect behavioral change? How do we change the conversation on climate change from doom and gloom to an opportunity that must be ceased upon, now? How do we get smarter about the important role social media plays in this space?

    We’ll discuss the likelihood of mass adoption of alternative energy, green cars and smartgrid technology also spotlight more controversial issues such as geo engineering to cool the planet and reintroducing extinct species like the passenger pigeon. We’ll see how the military is greening their operations and how off-the-grid military bases could be a model for cities. Are self-sustained islands the solution or is greater integration imperative?

    We will culminate the Forum with the major take-aways, big ideas and practical tools for people to take with them into the wider world post forum.