Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Population Research Discovery Seminars

An Earth-Scientist's View of Human Population Dynamics

Stephen Warren, UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences and UW Department of Earth & Space Sciences

01/17/2020
12:30-1:30 PM PT
121 Raitt Hall

Today’s fertility rates and population sizes are examined in the context of past and future centuries, considering these questions:

  • Why is a climate scientist studying demography?
  • How will agricultural developments affect population sizes?
  • How was fertility limited in pre-agricultural societies?
  • What are the consequences of regional diversity in fertility rates?
  • Why can the global average fertility rate rise even if each country’s fertility rate is falling?
  • Why has political and academic interest in problems of overpopulation fluctuated so wildly (high in the 1920s and 1960s; low following the 1994 Cairo conference)?
  • Can there be economic benefits to reducing fertility?
  • Was it inevitable that the world population would eventually at some time reach today’s 7.7 billion, or could policies have been instituted a century ago to limit it to 2 or 3 billion?
  • What will stop world population growth?
  • Why have no extraterrestrial civilizations been detected?

Stephen Warren received his Ph.D. at Harvard University in physical chemistry. He has been at UW since 1982, where he is now Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Earth & Space Sciences. He teaches courses on climate, atmospheric radiation, glaciology, and scientific writing, and has won two awards for excellence in teaching. He has supervised 8 M.S. students and 12 Ph.D. students. His research concerns the interaction of solar radiation with snow, clouds, and sea ice, and their role in climate. He has carried out fieldwork in the Arctic and Antarctic, with Australian, Russian, French, Danish, Norwegian, Chinese, and U.S. expeditions. He has about 135 publications, which have been cited about 16,000 times; he has been designated a Highly Cited Author by the Institute for Scientific Information. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. He received a Special Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation. His interest in population problems developed from teaching a course on climate change. He has published two journal articles and one book chapter about human population dynamics.