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Macaulay Lectures

Each year the Trust, in partnership with The James Hutton Institute, organise the annual Macaulay lecture.

The aim of the lecture is to stimulate thinking and dialogue about contemporary environmental issues in order to honour the vision of Dr T B Macaulay from whose endowment in 1930 both the Trust and the Hutton trace their origins. Further information about Dr Macaulay can be found here.

The lectures are aimed at an informed, professional audience and each one is given by a world renown academic. An archive of recent lectures is available here.

44th TB Macaulay Lecture: A safe and just future for humanity on earth

The lecture was held on Thursday evening (18th October 2023) in Edinburgh, where we were honoured to host Johan Rockström, who is internationally recognised for his work on global sustainability issues. We were delighted to welcome an audience of over 500 attendees to the event.

Johan's talk covered the latest scientific results of the health of the earth system, including the recent work of the Earth Commission and also an update on the "Earth for All" scenario, analysing pathways towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals within planetary boundaries.

“The science is clear: the rising frequency and amplitude of extreme events is just one consequence of overshooting 1.5 °C warming, which is a real biophysical limit, and beyond which multiple tipping points in the earth system are not only likely to be triggered, but run a risk of causing tipping cascades”. -Professor Johan Rockström

After 11.000 years of a remarkably stable climate which has formed the support for civilisation to evolve comfortably; activities of the last 70 years have moved us into a period where human activity has started to significantly impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.

We face multiple global crises, afflicting built and natural environments, health and well-being, wealth and economic development, social stability and security - culminating in the risk of a polycrisis - a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects whose overall impact exceeds the sum of each part.

The lecture reflects on where we stand shortly before the COP28, to be held in Dubai, and his thoughts on the corrective action needed in order to keep the entire system in its current inter-glacial state.

On behalf of the Macaulay Development Trust and The James Hutton Institute; we would like to thank everyone who attended.

A recording of  the 44th Macaulay Lecture is available on The James Hutton Institute's YouTube channel.