Tuesday Aug 02, 2022
Researchers led by the University of Cambridge are calling on governments to prepare for the possibility of human extinction due to climate change.
The researchers proposed a research agenda for bad-to-worse climate change scenarios, which include losing 10% of the global population to eventual extinction.
“There are plenty of reasons to believe climate change could become catastrophic, even at modest levels of warming,” said lead author Dr Luke Kemp from Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, in a media release.
“Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction event. It has helped fell empires and shaped history. Even the modern world seems adapted to a particular climate niche.”
He and his colleagues argue that the Earth warming to and over 3°C has serious consequences that are not being taken seriously.
Researchers found that areas of extreme heat, such as regions with an annual average temperature of over 29°C, could cover two billion people by 2070. These areas affected tend to be the most densely populated and politically fragile.
“Average annual temperatures of 29 degrees 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.
Another consequence of climate change is that there may be a threat to global food supply as the world's agricultural regions suffer “meltdowns”.
Extreme weather conditions could also lead to possible new disease outbreaks.
“The more we learn about how our planet functions, the greater the reason for concern,” said co-author Prof Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“We increasingly understand that our planet is a more sophisticated and fragile organism. We must do the math of disaster in order to avoid it.”