Scientists from around the globe convene to address urbanization, land, and climate change

ASU hosts two international conferences to advance sustainability efforts and progress                

PHOENIX/TEMPE, Ariz. – Reinforcing its role as a leader in interdisciplinary global environmental and climate change conversations, Arizona State University (ASU) will host conferences for both the International Conference on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) and the Global Land Project’s (GLP) Open Science Meeting.

How have humans changed the Earth’s surface? How do urbanization and global environmental change interface? What are new pathways for sustainability that link urbanization and land change? How can we adapt to changes that have already occurred?

These themes play significantly in both of the groups’ individual and joint conferences. They are also top of mind among next-phase thinkers in the fields of environment and sustainability and are expected to play prominently in upcoming agenda-setting reports.

“The success of these conferences relies on the breadth of expertise among those participating in critical discussions,” said Rick Shangraw, director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “ASU is a model for successful interdisciplinary processes. As such, it is a valuable backdrop for these conversations.”

The Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project will hold its first International Science and Practice Conference, titled “Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainability in an Urbanizing World,” from Oct. 15-17, 2010 at ASU’s main Tempe campus in the Memorial Union. The conference welcomes scientists, policymakers, and practitioners to engage in dialogue on the pathways through which urbanization and global environmental change interface.

The Global Land Project will hold its Open Science Meeting from Oct. 17-19, 2010 also at ASU’s Tempe campus. With the theme “Land Systems, Global Change, and Sustainability,” the conference will consider human transformations to the Earth’s surface as it also builds relationships, shares research, and creates community within its highly interdisciplinary field of international land chance science researchers.

On Oct. 17, the two projects will hold a joint conference titled “Sustainable Land Systems in the Era of Urbanization and Climate Change.” The gathering will join as many as 600 scholars and decision-makers from around the globe to discuss the relationships between urbanization, land, and climate change.

“The joint conference will focus on merging land change with urbanization processes, a link considered critical to the future of the planet,” said B.L. Turner, professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and also the School of Sustainability. “What do we know and what do we need to know about these linkages? Do urban heat islands affect regional precipitation patterns and thus agriculture and ecosystem at distance from the city? What configurations of the urban conglomerations prove more sustainable over the long run? How is the loss of tropical forests—the lungs of the planet—linked to urban dynamics? These are the kinds of questions that will be addressed on the joint day. The research shared will inform the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report currently under preparation.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences.

Instrumental to the development of the Global Land Project, Turner and Karen Seto, chair of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Program, realized that the two programs needed to merge their associated research communities more closely if essential issues of urban and land sustainability were to be better informed.  Cities and land use must adapt not only to climate change but to the associated needs of both. What happens in cities affects local to distant land uses, while changes in land uses affect the environmental conditions in cities, from water availability to temperature.

Another question to be posed at the conference—whether sustainability can truly be achieved in arid landscapes—is held closely by attendees from Arizona and similar climates. ASU President Michael Crow will serve as plenary chair of the joint UGEC/GLP event on this subject.

“Cities are critical entities for humanity's future,” said Michail Fragkias, Ph.D. and executive officer of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) project. “With the vast majority of the world's population growth expected to be urban dwellers, urban adaptation to irreversible climate change is a priority. A comprehensive understanding about the intersection of urbanization and land change processes is essential and with more than 40 countries represented at ASU for these conferences, the dialogue will be invaluable for progress.

Joining research luminaries from around the world, ASU experts involved in keynote lectures on the joint day include Grady Gammage, senior fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy; Patricia Gober, ASU professor in the School of Sustainability and co-director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Decision Center for a Desert City; and Nancy Grimm, ASU professor in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and co-director of the NSF’s Central Arizona—Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Project.

Four ASU representatives will also present keynotes at the Global Land Project’s conference. They are Kerry Smith, professor of economics at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business and director of the Center for Environmental Economics and Sustainability Policy in the L. William Seidman Research Institute; Hallie Eakin, assistant professor in the School of Sustainability; Ann Kinzig, professor in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and chief research strategist for the Global Institute of Sustainability; and Charles Perrings, professor in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and affiliated faculty with the School of Sustainability. Christopher Boone, professor in the School of Sustainability, will participate in a plenary session during the UGEC conference.

For more information on the UGEC and GLP conferences, go to and

About ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability
The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The Institute advances research, education, and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers integrated degree programs that advance practical solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges;

About the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project
This collaborative project focuses on building greater knowledge and understanding of the bidirectional interactions between global environmental change and cities at local, regional, and global scales, and integrating the work of decision-makers, practitioners, and academic researchers;

About the Global Land Project
The Global Land Project is a joint research project for land systems for the International Human Dimensions Programme and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. The project focuses on the scientific study of how human activities on land are affecting feedbacks to the earth system and the response of the human-environment system to global change;


Media Contact:

Karen Leland
Director, Communications/Marketing
Global Institute of Sustainability
Arizona State University, USA
[email protected]