Our climate encouraged us to thrive, but what's next?

Since the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago, humans have prospered in a stable, predictable climate - but people today will be the last to be able to rely on this.

Since the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago, humans have prospered in a stable, predictable climate - but people today will be the last to be able to rely on this.

That will be the case outlined on Wednesday in an event at Newcastle Science Festival.

Fred Pearce, a consultant for New Scientist magazine, will say in his lecture at 6pm at the Centre for Life that climate change from now on will not be gradual.

"A lot of environmentalists think of nature as a passive, nice, cuddly thing. But for me nature is a wild beast and she will bite back," says Fred.

"Global warming could happen far faster than current predictions."

"The big question for humanity is how well we will cope with fast climate change. Humans have done most of their development in the last 10,000 years, during a time of unusually stable climate.

"It looks like we need a stable climate to make progress, but just remember what affect Hurricane Katrina had on the US, and that was just one hurricane."

Now in its fifth year, the Festival runs from today to March 18 and offers more than 100 events at venues across the city, most of them free.

"Subjects such as climate change form an integral part of the festival," says Linda Conlon, director at the Centre for Life.

For Newcastle Science Festival details or programme contact Laura Holland Tel: (0191) 243-8292 or visit www.newcastle sciencefestival.co.uk. Other events will include:

* No Waste like Home with Penney Poyzer, March 18, 3pm, Centre for Life.

Using waste as a first resource, not as a last resort, Penney will demonstrate a range of products made from rubbish.

* People and Planet debate, March 13, 6.30pm, Centre for Life.

Find out more about how humans will live in the future, and have your say on how we might cope with issues like climate change and new medicine.

* Costing the Earth - the story of Peat, March 14, 6pm, Centre for Lifelong Learning, Joseph Cowen House.

Vast areas of peatlands have been destroyed to provide for the gardening and horticulture market, with claims by peat producers that the industry is sustainable. So are the restrictions on peat production in the UK justified, or are the claims about environmental problems of using peat unfair?

* Global warming: its effects on the wine industry, March 15, 2pm, Joseph Cowen House.

Climate change has already had a marked affect on viticulture. Some significant wine regions are becoming too hot to grow quality grapes, but will global warming really make Britain a paradise for wine-makers? This session will explore what has already happened and assess the future for the wine industry.

* The Great Debate: Development, Sustainability and Environment, March 17, 9am-4pm, Newcastle University, Devonshire Building.

As one of the key issues at the start of the 21st Century, the environment is becoming a major concern that influences policy making around the world. Is our current pattern of water use sustainable? How will we generate sufficient electricity for our future needs? Is the sort of technology we take for granted in the West appropriate for the developing world?

Wildlife Events:

* Today, 3pm, RSPB Talk with Stephen Moss, Centre for Life.

During over 20 years at the BBC Stephen Moss has travelled in search of exotic wildlife, including the big cats of Africa and penguins in Antarctica. He reveals the secrets behind the scenes of providing on-screen entertainment to millions.

* The Flight and Plight of the Bumblebee, March 13, 5.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Bedson Building, Newcastle University.

The reasons why bumblebees are important to us and why some species are threatened.

* Wildlife in the City, March 14, 11am , Joseph Cowen House.

Find out how wildlife has adapted to living in an urban environment.

* The Science of Wildlife Gardening, March 16, 6pm, Centre for Life.

* William Turner of Morpeth: Father of English botany, March, 14, 5pm, Joseph Cowen House

* The Hidden Natural History of Ponds, March 14, 10am,Joseph Cowen House.


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