climate, cop26, climate change
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Experts are ignoring the worst possible climate change catastrophic scenarios, including collapse of society or the potential extinction of humans, however unlikely, a group of top scientists claim.

Eleven scientists from around the world are calling on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s authoritative climate science organization, to do a special science report on “catastrophic climate change” to “bring into focus how much is at stake in a worst-case scenario.” In their perspective piece in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences they raise the idea of human extinction and worldwide societal collapse in the third sentence, calling it “a dangerously underexplored topic.”

The scientists said they aren’t saying that worst is going to happen. They say the trouble is no one knows how likely or unlikely a “climate endgame” is and the world needs those calculations to battle global warming.

“I think it’s highly unlikely you are going to see anything close to even extinction over the next century simply because humans are incredibly resilient,” said study lead author Luke Kemp at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge in England. “Even if we have a 1% chance of having a global catastrophe, going extinct over the coming century, that 1%, that is way too high.”

Catastrophic climate scenarios “appear likely enough to warrant attention” and can lead to prevention and warning systems, Kemp said.

Good risk analyses consider both what’s most likely and what’s the worst that could happen, study authors said. But because of push back from non-scientists who reject climate change, mainstream climate science has concentrated on looking at what’s most likely and also disproportionately on low-temperature warming scenarios that come close to international goals, said co-author Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter in England.

There is, Lenton said, “not enough emphasis on how things, the risks, the big risks, could go plausibly badly wrong.”

It’s like an airplane, Lenton said. It’s overwhelmingly likely that it will land safely, but it’s only because so much attention was made to calculate the worst case scenario and then figure out how to avoid a crash. It only works if you research what could go badly wrong and that isn’t being done enough with climate change, he said.

“The stakes may be higher than we thought,” said University of Michigan environment dean Jonathan Overpeck, who wasn’t part of the study. He worries that the world “may stumble” upon climate risks it doesn’t know about.

When global science organizations look at climate change they tend to just look at what happens in the world: extreme weather, higher temperatures, melting ice sheets, rising seas and plant and animal extinctions. But they aren’t factoring enough how these reverberate in human societies and interact with existing problems—like war, hunger and disease—study authors said.

“If we don’t look at the intersecting risks, we’ll be painfully surprised,” said University of Washington public health and climate professor Kristie Ebi, a co-author who like Lenton has been part of United Nations global climate assessments.

It was a mistake health professionals made before COVID-19 when assessing possible pandemics, Ebi said. They talked about disease spread, but not lockdowns, supply chain problems and spiraling economies.

Study authors said they worry about societal collapse—war, famine, economic crises—linked to climate change more than the physical changes to Earth itself.

Outside climate scientists and risk experts were both welcoming and wary of focusing on the worst of the worst, even as many reject climate doom talk.

“I do not believe civilization as we know it will make it out of this century,” University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, a former British Columbia legislator for the Green Party, said in an email. “Resilient humans will survive, but our societies that have urbanized and are supported by rural agriculture will not.”

Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather of the tech company Stripe and Berkeley Earth has criticized climate scientists in the past for using future scenarios of greatly increasing carbon pollution when the world is no longer on those paths to more rapid warming. Yet, he said it does make sense to look at catastrophic scenarios “as long as we are careful not to conflate the worst case with the most likely outcome.”

Talking about extinction of humans is not “a very effective communications device,” said Brown University climate scientist Kim Cobb. “People tend to immediately say, well, that’s just, you know, arm waving or doomsday mongering.”

What’s happening short of extinction is bad enough, she said.

Co-author Tim Lenton said researching worst case scenarios could find nothing to worry about: “Maybe it’s that you can thoroughly rule out a number of these bad scenarios. Well, that’s actually really well worth spending your time doing that. Then we should all cheer up a bit.” 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 Journal information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

© 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation: Chances of climate catastrophe are ignored, scientists say (2022, August 6) retrieved 6 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-chances-climate-catastrophe-scientists.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

TECH NEWS RELATED

Airline Wi-Fi Not Working? Refunds Might Soon Be Required

Airline Wi-Fi service would soon need to be refunded to its passengers when they fail to work during their flights, the Biden administration proposes. The new proposal goes beyond broken in-flight Wi-Fi connections. It also seeks to revise how travel search websites are showing their results. (Photo : PATRICK T. ...

View more: Airline Wi-Fi Not Working? Refunds Might Soon Be Required

New Roomba Robot can Vacuum, Mop Floors in Single Cleaning Job

Futuristic science fiction and even cartoon shows depict robot household helpers mopping and sweeping floors, and viewers have been struck through the years with this incredible possibility. Now, this vision has seemed to become a reality with several robot floor cleaners around. First-ever ‘Vacuuming and Mopping’ Robot While other ...

View more: New Roomba Robot can Vacuum, Mop Floors in Single Cleaning Job

TikTok Faces £27-M Fine Over Child Privacy Violations in UK

TikTok’s struggles amidst government scrutiny and legal action continue as the short video sharing platform faces a £27 million (around $29.2 million) fine in the United Kingdom after the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that the company may have violated data protection laws by failing to protect children’s ...

View more: TikTok Faces £27-M Fine Over Child Privacy Violations in UK

Ford China creates new subsidiary as it ramps up EV push

Ford Motor Company said on Monday it has set up a new subsidiary dedicated exclusively to focusing on the research, development, and operation of intelligent electric vehicles in China, the latest move by the US automaker to push its electric and digital makeover. The first subsidiary of its kind ...

View more: Ford China creates new subsidiary as it ramps up EV push

8 US states sue crypto platform Nexo for lying to investors

ETtech Launched in 2018, Nexo has supported over 50 cryptocurrencies, had over 5 million users and processed over $80 billion. Cryptocurrency platform Nexo has been sued by New York, California and six other state regulators for failing to register with the state as securities and commodities brokers or dealers and ...

View more: 8 US states sue crypto platform Nexo for lying to investors

TikTok owner ByteDance approves US$3 billion share buy-back, its first for investors, despite some opposition

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, concluded a special shareholder meeting on Tuesday morning at which the company endorsed a board decision to repurchase up to US$3 billion shares from investors despite opposition from some small shareholders, according to a source who was briefed on the meeting. While the company’s ...

View more: TikTok owner ByteDance approves US$3 billion share buy-back, its first for investors, despite some opposition

Enthusiast custom mechanical keyboard recommendation: Jris65 by IRISLab

More custom mech keyboard recommendations that don't break the bank Earlier in March 2022, I shared about the QK65, which I would say is an excellent board for getting started in the Custom Mechanical Keyboard hobby. That's because it ticks the boxes for a good custom keyboard on a ...

View more: Enthusiast custom mechanical keyboard recommendation: Jris65 by IRISLab

NASA Pushes Through With Its Artemis I Launch Next Week; Agency Says It's Not Risking Its $4.1-Billion Rocket to the Moon

(Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B after the launch was scrubbed at Kennedy Space Center on September 04, 2022, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Managers at NASA met early today and decided based on the most recent weather forecasts associated with Hurricane Ian ...

View more: NASA Pushes Through With Its Artemis I Launch Next Week; Agency Says It's Not Risking Its $4.1-Billion Rocket to the Moon

DART goes silent after hitting an asteroid [Update]

Ancient footprints on UK beach record demise of a biodiversity hotspot

New herbicide solution inspired by cholesterol medicine

Found the origin of fascioliasis, a priority disease according to the WHO, in Southeast Africa and the Middle East

Heat-related mortality risk is widespread across Washington state

Bullseye! NASA’s DART spacecraft slams into asteroid

Deep space: Massive light burst detected on Earth came from ’infant’ Universe

Undercount of Cook County opioid deaths

Screening for pregnancy anxiety in the first and third trimesters can help reduce early births

New study allows scientists to test therapeutics for rare disease affecting young children

Doctor and patient in consultation: who interrupts whom (and is that bad)?

WhatsApp to roll out call links, testing secure encrypted video calling

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News