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Earth as a Habitable Planet

Concern about global warming has led to growing awareness of the fragility of the planet and the need for a multidisciplinary approach to tackle the problem.

Researchers in astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, engineering and social sciences are all part of this Emerging SRT, which seeks to address some of the most fundamental questions facing humanity and the planet.

What impact is global warming having on animals and humans? Is the warming unusual compared to past warmings? What about human-made products – how are they affecting the environment?

These are questions all being considered in this Emerging SRT, which takes as its basis the fact that the physical, chemical and biological processes in the land, oceans and atmosphere are inter-related and are all being affected by natural and artificial causes.

Examples of the group's research output include measuring the effect of thermal stress on snails – an indicator of the impact of warming – and the urban heat island effect in Hong Kong; investigating the different ways in which a certain human-made nanomaterial affects marine life; and digging into the past to track variations in ocean temperatures several hundred years ago based on the radiocarbon content of coral skeletons.

Ongoing and future studies aim to draw on the past to predict future changes, evaluate the current state of the planet and, in a broader context, consider what lessons can be learned about Earth by looking at objects in other solar systems.


Professor S. Kwok (Science)


Dr K. Shih (Civil Engineering)