More research is needed on climate change leading to societal collapse or human extinction, researchers have said, warning that such potentially catastrophic findings are “dangerously unexplored”.
A team of international experts led by the University of Cambridge said there was not enough research on the worst possible scenario, despite “many reasons to suspect that climate change could lead to global catastrophe”.
Writing in an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said analyzing the extreme consequences of climate change could “galvanize action, improve resilience and inform policy”.
They called on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to devote a future report to catastrophic climate change.
Lead author Dr Luke Kemp, from the Center for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge, said: “There are many reasons to believe that climate change could become catastrophic, even at modest levels of warming.
“Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction event.
“It helped bring down empires and shape history.
“Even the modern world seems suited to a particular climatic niche.
“Pathways to disaster are not limited to the direct impacts of high temperatures, such as extreme weather events.
“Ripple effects such as financial crises, conflicts and new epidemics could trigger further calamities and hamper recovery from potential disasters such as nuclear war.”
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The “four horsemen” of the climatic endgame
Researchers argue that the consequences of 3C warming and its extreme risks are under-examined.
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 disease.
Co-author Professor Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “The more we learn about how our planet works, the more concerned we are.
“We increasingly understand that our planet is a more sophisticated and fragile organism.
“We have to calculate the disaster in order to avoid it.”
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