Peter Ward has been active in Paleontology, Biology, and more recently, Astrobiology for more than 40 years. Since his Ph.D. in 1976, Ward has published more than 140 scientific papers dealing with paleontological, zoological, and astronomical topics.
He is an acknowledged world expert on mass extinctions and the role of extraterrestrial impacts on Earth. Ward was the Principal Investigator of the University of Washington node of the NASA Astrobiology Institute from 2001-2006, and in that capacity led a team of over 40 scientists and students. His career was profiled by the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter William Dietrich in The Seattle Times article "Prophet, Populist, Poet of Science."
Peter has written a memoir of his research on the Nautilus for Nautilus magazine's "Ingenious" feature entitled "Nautilus and me. My wonderful, dangerous life with the amazing Nautilus."
His books include the best-selling "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe" (co-author Donald Brownlee, 2000), "Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future" (2007), and "The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?" (2009).
Question: What keeps you up at night?
Peter Ward: The greatest single threat to us, again, is this rapid global warming, in the sense that I am really kept up at night worrying about the slowing of the circulation systems of the oceans and kept up at night worrying a great deal about sea level rise.
I have a book coming out called, Our Rising Sea, or Our Flooded World, I haven’t finished it yet. We’re doing a TV show about it; we’ll start filming in March. But even two meters, but after being in Antarctica, look we’ve **** Antarctica we’ve got 240 feet of sea level rise. So where I’m sitting here in Manhattan is about 100 feet under water. There’s just going to be a whole change in geography of this planet due to industrialized humans. I think there’s no stopping it.
Recorded on January 11, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
We are now at levels that the world has not seen for the last 40 million years and we will soon be at carbon dioxide levels that existed 100 million years ago when we had a true hot house world.