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We don’t worry enough about climate change

A man watches as a wildfire approaches a beach on the island of Evia, Greece, in August 2021.

A man watches as a wildfire approaches a beach on the island of Evia, Greece, in August 2021.
A photo: Thodoris Nicolau (AP)

We may be facing a “climate endgame” and the concept that climate change will end human existence is a “dangerously under-researched topic,” according to a disturbing new study. Research work. In other words: we know that climate change is going to be very bad, but we are completely unprepared for the really worst scenarios.

“We sought to develop a rationale and scientific basis for the study of climate disasters: the question of whether climate change could lead to global social collapse or even possible human extinction,” lead author Luke Kemp of the Cambridge Center for the Study of Existential Risks told Earther. in an email.

While you might think that climate change news couldn’t get Worse, Kent and his co-authors argue that a lot of media and policy attention has actually been focused on the effects of past 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warming.industrial levels – a path that we can hardly escape.

Kemp says there are several reasons for this. For one, tThe goals of the Paris Agreement are to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, at best 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).random scenario – focused most attention on the effects of lower levels of warming. FROMKemp said scientists often avoid sounding “alarmist” to keep the public’s attention in the face of disinformation campaigns from Big Oil and other bad news.actors. And the blows more extreme climate change and complex risks that will lead to huge changes are more difficult to study than what could happen with less warming.

This emphasis on less catastrophic impacts, article athe authors say is reflected in climate research. Previously research work published by Kemp, and some of the authors of this article found that only 14% of the references in the latest IPCC report are about the effects of climate change that could occur if temperatures exceed 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

“Catastrophic warming scenarios are not well understood,” Kemp said. “Our risk assessments are also simplistic and not suitable for thinking about extreme risks. In any case, we are betting on the best option.”

The signs right now are that we are in a position to prevent the types of disasters outlined in this report. The IPCC, in a report earlier this year, outlined specific ways to avoid 2 degrees of warming; if all peoples will adhere to their existing obligations under the Paris Agreement, we expect an increase of just 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.24 degrees Fahrenheit). However, in the worst case, if we do not achieve these goals, it may be Indeed Badly. Politically vulnerable nation-states have a “striking coincidence” with areas that can experience extreme heat. The document also lays out the so-called “four horsemen” of the “end game on climate change”: vector-borne diseases, hunger and malnutrition, extreme weather and global conflict. The paper says that these four factors could be exacerbated by other climate impacts, such as sea level rise, as well as the rise of other non-climate risk factors, such as inequality and misinformation.

Paper, published this week in Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, postulates some a particularly terrifying potential future if warming gets out of hand. Kemp said one of the “plausible worst-case scenarios” would be nuclear war and climate change merge: “Climate change exacerbates geopolitical conflict, which ultimately leads to large-scale nuclear war,” he said. “After the end of nuclear winter, survivors face accelerated warming.” Happy!

While throwing these scenarios around might seem alarmist, the team argues better be ready. Paper puts notes like an idea from nuclear winter– the absolute worst-case scenario during the Cold War –galvanized public opinion in the 1980s. disarmament. Knowing the real risks of extreme warming can help us work harder to avoid them.

“There is nothing alarmist about looking at plausible extreme risks,” Kemp said. “We do this for car and plane crashes without screaming panic. It’s just good risk management and science. The alternative to marching blindly is naive and potentially fatally stupid.”

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