Laurence C. Smith

What will the world look like in 2050? With a warmer globe, who will win, and who will lose?

UCLA Climate Scientist and Author of The World in 2050

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Laurence C. Smith | UCLA Climate Scientist and Author of The World in 2050
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

How will the combination of a booming global population, global warming, and rising sea levels transform the world? To Dr. Laurence C. Smith, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, the North is set for major gains. In sweeping talks covering demographics, climate science, and economics, Smith outlines the changes our world will face in both the distant and immediate future. 

Dr. Laurence C. Smith’s work envisions the future of a warmed planet. In the summer of 2015, Smith and his team conducted groundbreaking research on the melting ice sheet in Greenland—the first of its kind, and work that can “help scientists figure out how rapidly sea levels will rise in the 21st century, and thus how people in coastal areas from New York to Bangladesh could plan for the change” (The New York Times). Smith’s debut book, The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilizations Northern Future, is a work of enormous scope, cross-cutting themes of population demographics, globalization, natural resource demand, and climate change. It’s science fiction—without the fiction. It won the Walter P. Kistler Book Award, was a Nature Editor’s Pick for 2012, and has been translated into 14 languages. 


“Laurence C. Smith’s book on the future works precisely because he avoids both the temptations of fear and of unbridled optimism.”

The Globe and Mail

Smith is Professor and Chair of Geography and Professor of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA, and has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles in leading journals including ScienceNature, and PNAS. His recent paper on shipping routes in the Arctic was named one of the top 10 news stories of 2013 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. He was an invited speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2014 and was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 2015.


“Smith’s planetary palm-reading would be impressive enough, but he also managed to pull it off with literary gusto. He combines a wide-angle-lens analysis reminiscent of Jared Diamond with a knack for narrative, including tales of numerous visits to the Arctic.”

New Scientist

In 2006, Dr. Smith briefed Congress on the likely impacts of northern climate change, and in 2007 and 2014 his work appeared prominently in the 4th and 5th Assessment Reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He was named a Guggenheim Fellow by the John S. Guggenheim Foundation in New York for 2006/2007. He has received more than $7 million in external grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for his research on northern climate change. His work has received media coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, The Financial Times, Discover Magazine, NPR, BBC, CBC Radio, and others.   


“I just wanted to send you a quick message and thank you for the cooperation. It was a pleasure to have Laurence here, he made an excellent contribution to our opening conference and it was a pleasure to work with you in advance. Please find enclosed a pdf of the front page article from the leading financial daily here in Norway. Needless to say, we are very happy with that. The conference received excellent coverage and Laurence’s speech was very well received by the audience.”

Norweigan Ship Owners Association

“I'm deeply appreciative of all of the care you [Laurence Smith] gave to the many different dimensions of your time with us—the attention offered to guests at the dinner, the wonderful lecture, the generosity and openness with which you met students on Thursday morning. Some things that really stand out to me in reflecting on how you were present with everyone: your warmth and openness and the thoughtful regard you gave to every question and perspective that came forward were outstanding; the breadth of your interests and unique ability to value the many contributions of different disciplines, researchers, and approaches underscored a twenty-first century approach to deeper understanding and problem solving; your patience with each person who approached you and your willingness to give so much of your time and energy made a strong impression on many who met you.”

Friends’ Central

Speech Topics

Climate Change
The New North

In this all encompassing talk, accompanied by stunning photographs and graphics, Laurence Smith presents a balanced, politically neutral based projection of what the world might look like in ten years’ time, should current global trends in (1) population demographics, (2) resource demand, (3) economic globalization, and (4) climate change continue their current trajectories. The first part of the talk (“The Push”) identifies key global pressures and trends, for example in urbanization, population aging, energy technology, water supply, immigration, and the rising economies of China, India and the developing world. The second part (“The Pull”) describes the emergence of a new geographic region, which he coins the “Northern Rim,” comprised of Canada, the northern United States, Greenland/Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Federation (called the Northern Rim Countries or NORCs). These eight northern countries and their surrounding seas will experience profound transformation over the next 10 years, making the Northern Rim a place of rising human activity and global strategic value relative to today. A fascinating, cross-disciplinary talk, Smith gives audiences a glimpse into the future, and describes the world that we will leave to our children and grandchildren. One that is wholly different from the world we know today.

Country of Ice The Beauty and Perils of the Greenland Ice Sheet and Why it Matters To Us All

This is not a talk just about climate change: it’s about the adventure and beauty of the spectacular Greenland ice sheet. In this thrilling keynote, Laurence C. Smith describes the rare breed of scientists who work on the sheet, and the story of three planes that went down there during the second World War (which his friend Dr. Alberto Behar helped to find again in 2012 after being frozen under the ice for 70 years; also the subject of the bestselling book Frozen in Time). Smith interweaves this compelling story with his research on the meltwater rivers flowing on the ice sheet and the physical and economic changes that are going on in Greenland today to describe why this extraordinary landscape matters to us all.

Canadian Politics
Canada in 2022

The image of a remote, sparsely populated, Canadian North might not be around for much longer. In this talk, UCLA geoscientist Laurence C. Smith outlines how Canada will look by 2022. While some of the world may be worse off by 2022, Canada and a group of northern countries Smith calls the “Northern Rim” will actually benefit from a warming planet. Smith expects Canada will experience an uptick in settlement of barren lands, and heightened northern strategic values from newly thawed trade routes. Canada’s role as steward of the largest wilderness on the planet—with abundant water and other natural resources—will also come under pressure as demand for these resources increases with a swelling world population. This keynote contains valuable information for any Canadian firm eager for a forecast of the country’s future migration, natural resource shifts, and political implications of this new era.