Scientists say the chances of a climate catastrophe are being ignored

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Experts are ignoring potentially catastrophic worst-case scenarios for climate change, including the collapse of society or the possible extinction of humans, however unlikely, a group of leading scientists have claimed.

Eleven scientists from around the world are calling for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s competent body climate A scientific organization, to make a special scientific report on “catastrophic climate change” in order to “focus on the amount of danger in worst case scenario. In their perspective piece on Monday Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences They bring up the idea of ​​human extinction and societal collapse around the world in the third sentence, calling it a “grave, under-explored topic.”

Scientists said they’re not saying the worst will happen. They say the problem is that no one knows how likely or likely the “climate end game” is and that the world needs these accounts for battle. Global Warming.

“I think you’re unlikely to see anything even close to extinction over the next century just because humans are so resilient,” said study lead author Luke Kemp of the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge in England. . “Even if we have a 1% chance of a global catastrophe, going extinct within the next century, 1%, that’s very high.”

Kemp said catastrophic climate scenarios “likely appear to be sufficient to generate interest” and could lead to prevention and warning systems.

Good risk analyzes take into account both the most likely and the worst that could happen, the study authors said. Because of the backsliding on the part of non-scientists who reject climate change, mainstream climate science has focused on looking at what is likely and also disproportionately on scenarios of low-temperature warming that approach targets, said Tim Linton, co-author, and director of the Climatology Institute. International. Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter in England.

“There is not enough focus on how things can go wrong and the risks and the risks are reasonably high,” Linton said.

Linton said it was like an airplane. It’s highly likely that you’ll land safely, but that’s only because a lot of attention has been paid to calculating worst case scenario Then find out how to avoid a collision. He said it only works if you look for what can go wrong and not do it enough with climate change.

“The risks may be higher than we thought,” said Jonathan Overbeck, dean of the environment at the University of Michigan, who was not part of the study. He worries that the world may “stumble” on climate risks it doesn’t know about.

When global scientific organizations look at climate change, they tend to just look at what’s happening in the world: extreme weather, rising temperatures, melting iceAnd the Sea level rise and plant and animal extinctions. But they don’t take into account how it resonates human societies And it interacts with existing problems — such as war, hunger and disease — the study authors said.

“If we didn’t look at cross-risks, we would be painfully surprised,” said the University of Washington. Public Health and climate professor Kristi Ibe, a co-author like Linton who was part of the United Nations Global Climate Assessments.

Ibe said it was a mistake health professionals made before COVID-19 when assessing potential epidemics. They talked about the spread of the disease, but not the lockdown, supply chain problems and surging economies.

The study’s authors said they worry more about societal breakdown – wars, famines and economic crises – linked to climate change than to physical changes on the Earth itself.

Outside climatologists and risk experts have been welcoming and wary of focusing on the worst of the worst, Many even reject the talk of climate torment.

“I don’t think civilization as we know it will come out of this century,” University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, a former British Columbia lawmaker for the Greens, said in an email. “Resilient humans will survive, but our societies that have been civilized and supported by rural agriculture will not.”

Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of Stripe and Tech Berkeley Earth has criticized climate scientists in the past for using future scenarios to dramatically increase carbon pollution when the world is no longer on those paths of rapid warming. However, he said it makes sense to look at catastrophic scenarios “as long as we are careful not to confuse the worst case with the possible outcome”.

Talking about human extinction is not “a very effective communications tool,” said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Brown University. “People tend to immediately say, OK, that’s just, you know, arm-waving or doomsday promotion.”

She said what happens without extinction is bad enough.

Co-author Tim Linton said research into worst-case scenarios might not find cause for concern: “You could probably rule out a number of these bad scenarios entirely. Well, that’s actually worth taking your time doing that. Then we all have to cheer up a bit.”


Climate change: Experts say the possibility of ending humanity is ‘dangerously unexplored’


more information:
Luke Kemp et al, Climate Endgame: exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2108146119

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