Over the course of our species’ existence, humans have migrated to inhabit most ecosystems on earth. We’ve adapted to hot and humid climates, found ways to survive cold deserts, and made homes in coastal, arid, and intermountain landscapes. Our human niche — the environments we call home — has changed over the past six thousand years as we have found new ways to adapt to novel conditions. But despite our movements and expansion, our basic preferences for certain combinations of temperature and precipitation have remained remarkably stable.

In the next 50 years, though, Earth’s changing climate will likely force dramatic human migrations as places that are now in this preferred niche become less hospitable. 

SFI External Professor Tim Kohler (Washington State University), Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and Chi Xu of Nanjing University in China, will co-lead a working group at SFI on July 10-13, 2018 to discuss climate projections for the next 50 years, and what those projections may mean for the future human niche. 

“We’ll be looking at climate projections under three basic scenarios,” says Kohler. “These range from ‘business as usual’ to a scenario where the world moves aggressively to limit additions to greenhouse gases.”

The projections the group has examined so far are sobering. “A key problem humanity will face is that those places in the world that the UN projects as gaining the most population in the next several decades are those least likely to remain in the preferred climate niche.” 

During the July meeting, the working group will take a close look at their models and analyses to identify any pitfalls and to consider the ramifications of their results as they work towards publication. 

Read more about The Human Niche working group.