Essay by Eric Worrall
Our monkey ancestors thrived and spread across the planet during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. But these scientists think a few degrees warming could make us extinct.
Climate change: More studies needed on possibility of human extinction
Catastrophic climate change outcomes, including human extinction, are not being taken seriously enough by scientists, a new study says.
The authors say that the consequences of more extreme warming – still on the cards if no action is taken – are “dangerously underexplored”.
They argue that the world needs to start preparing for the possibility of what they term the “climate endgame”.
They want UN scientists to investigate the risk of catastrophic change.
According to this new analysis, the closest attempts to directly understand or address how climate change could lead to global catastrophe have come from popular science books such as The Uninhabitable Earth and not from mainstream science research.
“I think it’s sane risk management to think about the plausible worst-case scenarios and we do it when it comes to every other situation, we should definitely do when it comes to the fate of the planet and species,” said lead author Dr Luke Kemp from the University of Cambridge.
The researchers found that estimates of the impacts of a temperature rise of 3C are under-represented compared to their likelihood.
Using climate models, the report shows that in this type of scenario, by 2070 around 2 billion people living in some of the most politically fragile areas of the world would be enduring annual average temperatures of 29C.
“Average annual temperatures of 29C currently affect around 30 million people in the Sahara and Gulf Coast,” said co-author Chi Xu of Nanjing University.
“By 2070, these temperatures and the social and political consequences will directly affect two nuclear powers, and seven maximum containment laboratories housing the most dangerous pathogens. There is serious potential for disastrous knock-on effects,” he said.
…Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-62378157
The abstract of the study;
Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios
Edited by Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; received May 20, 2021; accepted March 25, 2022
August 1, 2022
Prudent risk management requires consideration of bad-to-worst-case scenarios. Yet, for climate change, such potential futures are poorly understood. Could anthropogenic climate change result in worldwide societal collapse or even eventual human extinction? At present, this is a dangerously underexplored topic. Yet there are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe. Analyzing the mechanisms for these extreme consequences could help galvanize action, improve resilience, and inform policy, including emergency responses. We outline current knowledge about the likelihood of extreme climate change, discuss why understanding bad-to-worst cases is vital, articulate reasons for concern about catastrophic outcomes, define key terms, and put forward a research agenda. The proposed agenda covers four main questions: 1) What is the potential for climate change to drive mass extinction events? 2) What are the mechanisms that could result in human mass mortality and morbidity? 3) What are human societies’ vulnerabilities to climate-triggered risk cascades, such as from conflict, political instability, and systemic financial risk? 4) How can these multiple strands of evidence—together with other global dangers—be usefully synthesized into an “integrated catastrophe assessment”? It is time for the scientific community to grapple with the challenge of better understanding catastrophic climate change.Read more: https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2108146119
There are plenty of events which could kill us off, most of them are thankfully very unlikely. One thing which doesn’t threaten our existence is global warming.
Our monkey ancestors spread from the tropics to the high arctic during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, all the way up to Greenland, because 6-8C of global warming turned most of the Earth into a paradise for our warmth loving primate ancestors.
If a bunch of monkey ancestors with walnut size brains could figure out how to cope with global warming, I’m confident we could figure it out.