POSTPONED Understanding the Climate Crisis

This event has been postponed
March 11, 2020 | 7:30pm
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As a public health precaution, this lecture has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a future date. More information.

An exploration of what we know about the climate crisis, how we know it, and what we still need to learn. 

Stories about climate change are ever present in our daily lives. We see its consequences reflected in the traumatic, widespread fires in Australia. We read scientific projections of future consequences, such as a warming atmosphere and rising oceans, which will have increasing impact on all life.  But how have we come to understand scientifically the present and future course of Earth as a physical system, especially the human role in the changes we are experiencing?  What do still need to learn to address better our prospects for the future?

Our most important resource in answering these questions has been a decades-long program of using research satellites to study the Earth as a total system—our atmosphere, land, and oceans and how they interact to produce the phenomenon we call climate. This research has provided the foundation to understand the profound changes underway.

A panel of three scientists will take us inside their research to share “how we know what we know” about the climate crisis. Join us for an educational evening on the preeminent challenge of our time.


  • Dr. Jack Kaye, NASA's Earth Science Division
  • Dr. Jeffrey Masek, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Dr. Bridget Seegers, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


  • Dr. Ellen Stofan, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum

Tickets for this lecture are free but must be reserved in advance. Request free tickets.

We plan to webcast this lecture. Tune in on this page or Air and Space Live.

We continue to welcome guests to our museums and programs as we closely monitor the coronavirus situation. See our message to visitors.

This program is part of the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism initiative and is the first of three programs at the Museum that explores how the speed and intensity of Earth's changing climate is altering the behavior of our atmosphere, land, and oceans.   

Human activity, primarily in industrialized nations, has become a geologic force reshaping the present and future of our home world, making it less hospitable to life. This series of lectures invites conversation on this crisis. Presentations will focus on the essential role played by space and aviation capabilities in understanding the changes happening around us and how these tools help sustain animal and human communities. 

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