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FSN Seminar – Nov. 18 at 1 pm on Zoom

Planetary Limits: Coming Future Threats?

by Peter MacKinnon

Synergy Technology Management & Faculty of Engineering, uOttawa

November 18, 2022

Youtube link:

Update 1: here are the slides.

Please register in advance for this meeting <deleted as event in the past>

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Today’s world is faced with a growing range of increasing planetary-scale threats to the environment, the biosphere and humankind. Climate change is the most widely discussed of these threats, yet it is only one of nine interrelated planetary-scale disturbances triggered by human activities over the past two and a half centuries.  

This webinar will explore the emergence and practicality in viewing the Earth’s planetary system through the lens of these planetary limits or boundaries. 

‘Planetary boundaries’ represent human-caused perturbations of Earth systems making them change in a way not accommodated by the environmental boundaries separating the natural changes since the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago.  Thus, crossing a planetary boundary comes at the risk of abrupt environmental change. 

The framework is based on scientific evidence that human actions, especially those of the industrialized world, have become the main driver of global environmental change.

The implications of crossing these limits as well as the timing and interdependencies among such crossings will form the basis for discussion in terms of addressing these future threats.


Peter serves as chair of FSN. He has a background as a scientist, business manager, entrepreneur, domestic and international bureaucrat, executive, diplomat, management advisor, and academic; including affiliation with both Telfer and the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ottawa.

He is a pioneer in the commercialization of AI and today is actively involved in ethical and policy issues related to AI, especially as member of the IEEE-USA Artificial Intelligence Systems Policy Committee.  Peter has an extensive background on the forefront of scientific and technological breakthroughs around disruptive technologies and their impacts on society.

His scientific career included working in paleoclimate studies based on ice core and radar data from polar ice sheets.  He served as Chief Glaciologist at the World Data Center for Glaciology at the University of Colorado (Boulder), where he was involved in the development of the concept of Nuclear Winter. 

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