More research is needed on climate change leading to societal collapse or human extinction, researchers say, warning that such potentially catastrophic outcomes are “dangerously untapped.”
A team of international experts led by Cambridge University said not enough research had been done on the possible worst-case scenario, despite “sufficient reasons to suspect that climate change could lead to a global catastrophe”.
In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said analyzing extreme impacts of climate change “could drive action, improve resilience and inform policy.”
They have called on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to devote a future report to catastrophic climate change.
Lead author Dr. Luke Kemp, from Cambridge’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk, said: “There are plenty of reasons to believe that climate change could turn out to be catastrophic, even with modest warming.
“Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction.
“It has helped to drop empires and shape history.
“Even the modern world seems adapted to a particular climate niche.
“Paths to disasters are not limited to the direct effects of high temperatures, such as extreme weather events.
“Emphasis effects such as financial crises, conflict and new disease outbreaks can trigger other calamities and hinder recovery from potential disasters such as nuclear war.”
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The ‘four horsemen’ of the climate endgame
The researchers state that the consequences of 3C warming and its extreme risks are insufficiently researched.
They have proposed a research agenda that includes what they call the “four horsemen” of the climate endgame: famine and malnutrition, extreme weather, conflict and vector-borne diseases.
Co-author Prof Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “The more we learn about how our planet functions, the greater the cause for concern.
“We are increasingly understanding that our planet is a more advanced and vulnerable organism.
“We have to do the math of disaster to avoid it.”