Small changes can have a big impact

Professor Tim Lenton, Chair in Earth System Science and Climate Change, University of Exeter , Director of the Global Systems Institute (GSI)

Waking up to the planetary health emergency webinar series - Webinar 6

A Global Systems Institute seminar
Date10 December 2020
Time12:30 to 13:30
PlaceOnline Event

Event Information

The profound environmental damage we are inflicting on this planet, our common home, is adversely affecting the health of those alive today. And the damage we have already done will continue to impact on human health and wellbeing for many generations to come. The geo-biological changes we have initiated will persist for many centuries. We are already locked-in to that change. The actions we collectively take in the next few years will not only determine the future for our own species, but the future for the entire biosphere. This is a planetary health emergency.

Join us for this webinar series to learn about and reflect on the most pressing health challenge our species has ever faced. Engage with experts to understand what our individual and collective responsibilities should be and how even small changes may have big effects. The stakes could not be higher. The actions taken by those of us alive today will determine the future health and wellbeing for generations of humanity and the survival of many other species on our planet.

Full details for the series can be found on the event landing page and registration is via Eventbrite.


Systems thinking and tipping points for planetary health

Professor Tim Lenton, Chair in Earth System Science and Climate Change, University of Exeter , Director of the Global Systems Institute (GSI)

Tim is Professor and Chair in Earth System Science and Climate Change at the University of Exeter and Director of the new Global Systems Institute. Since joining the University in 2011, his primary research focus has been on the coupled evolution of life and the planet, on climate change tipping points and early warning methods, and on developing an evolutionary ecosystem model focusing on the marine microbial biosphere. He is particularly interested in how life has reshaped the planet in the past, and what lessons we

can draw from this as we proceed to reshape the planet now. These topics are covered in his books, ‘Earth System Science: A Very Short Introduction’ (OUP 2016) and with Andrew Watson, ‘Revolutions that made the Earth’ (OUP, 2011).

Tim’s work identifying the tipping elements in the climate system won the Times Higher Education Award for Research Project of the Year 2008. He has also received a Philip Leverhulme Prize 2004, a European Geosciences Union Outstanding Young Scientist Award 2006, the British Science Association Charles Lyell Award Lecture 2006, and the Geological Society of London William Smith Fund 2008. Tim is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Geological Society.


Tipping points in climate science normally refer to small changes in the Earth system that unleash much broader, typically damaging impacts that accelerate climate change. The best-known examples are rising sea levels due to disintegration of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets, or the release of methane deposits from the thawing Siberian permafrost. They help to underline the urgency of climate action. Today most people understand we must reduce emissions – and very quickly.

In this webinar, Tim will summarise recent evidence regarding climate tipping points, which supports declarations that we are in a ‘climate emergency’. He will also show his latest results identifying a human climate niche and projecting how it will move in the future. Then he will turn to identifying positive social tipping points that will need to be triggered to have any hope of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

Delivering the world's first carbon net zero health service

Dr Nick Watts, NHS Chief Sustainability Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement

Dr Watts is the Chief Sustainability Officer of the NHS, responsible for its commitment to deliver a world-class net zero emission health service. Based in London, he leads the Greener NHS team across the country, which focuses on improving the health of patients and the public through a robust and accelerated response to climate change and the broader sustainability agenda.

Nick is a medical doctor licensed in Australia and the UK, and has trained population health and public policy. He is a Member by Distinction of the Royal College of Physicians’ Faculty of Public Health, and an Honorary Associate Professor of University College London’s Institute for Global Health.

Prior to the National Health Service, Nick worked internationally as the Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown and the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, a collaboration of UN agencies and academic centres across the world. He has also focused on engaging the health profession on the links between public health and climate change, having founded both the Global Climate and Health Alliance and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.

Riptide volume 13: Climate Matters

Climate Matters is the Riptide Journal’s thirteenth volume and was produced and published to coincide with the launch of the ‘Waking up to the planetary health emergency’ 2020 webinar series. A burning issue of our time – the climate crisis – is the central theme of this collection of short stories, poetry, images and science writing. Many of the contributors ponder the links between our relentless drive to consume, our disrespect for the natural world and its disastrous effect on the climate and the survival of humanity. In a range of ways they question the role that capitalism plays and the need for a redefinition of what constitutes a good life. COVID-19’s appearance during the selection process means the pandemic and issues of health – both individual and planetary – play their part in the whole.

Download a pdf copy of this publication here.


Please register for this session and others in the series via Eventbrite.

OrganizerTim Malone
Waking_up_to_the_planetary_health_emergency__WUTPHE_2020__v2.pdfFlyer - Waking up to the planetary health emergency (632K)

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