The Earth’s climate evolved through various stages with changes that sometimes occurred gradually and at other times abruptly. They were caused by natural variations in CO2 levels associated with biogeochemical cycles and incoming solar radiation modulated by orbital variations. Human civilization thrived in the most recent warm period, but as we entered the Anthropocene, a single species began to alter the global climate signicantly for the first time in Earth’s history, thus causing numerous challenges for future generations.
Records of the interactions between Earth’s internal processes with the biosphere and with physico-chemical earth-surface processes throughout the entire Earth history are stored in sediments - they hold the key to understanding how past and future environmental change altered and will continue to alter the Earth’s surface.
Key questions demanding our immediate attention
- What can we learn from past ‘greenhouse’ conditions in Earth’s climate to better anticipate future changes in the hydrological cycle?
- What is the role of the subsurface biosphere in controlling biochemical fluxes and carbon cycling?
- How was hominid dispersal pushed or pulled by environmental change along the migration paths from origin to destinations?
- How do Archean rocks archive deep-time earth-surface processes and their interactions with an early atmosphere?