They are calling for better global planning to prepare for the effects of climate change
The scientists are not mincing their words: we should now look at the possibility of total human extinction due to the climate crisis.
Following a spectacularly bleak warning that humans must prepare for a “climate endgame” after failing to properly explore what the climate crisis is bringing, scientists from leading institutions are banding together to seek support for what could be a major change in tack in how human-driven global environmental collapse is viewed.
Calling for a new report from the UN’s IPCC on “catastrophic climate change,” they hope that explaining the horror coming down the line will galvanise the global response to the crisis which is currently almost non-existent.
Lead author of the research, Dr Luke Kemp from Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, said the climate crisis has been a factor not only in all known mass extinction events the world has seen, but has also played a critical role in the collapse of many human societies.
“In the long-term, climate change is capable of causing mass extinctions,” he said.
“We know that we could plausibly hit concentrations of greenhouse gases by the end of the century which are consistent with the triggering of past mass extinctions.
“Climate change has the potential to erase much of the biosphere and change the trajectory of life.”
He said in the past mass extinctions have been due to climatic changes which trigger a process called ocean hypoxia – warmer waters hold less oxygen leading to the growth of so-called “dead zones”, which can spread, leading to the deaths of huge numbers of species. But today’s climate crisis is occurring harder and faster than any global climatic change before.
Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter, a co-author of the study, agrees.
“We are suffering unprecedented heatwaves and fires already. Current policies globally are taking us to a nearly 3C warmer world in which billions of people could be on the move. Large scale movement of people can often trigger conflict,” he says.
Dr Kemp said previous campaigns highlighting the deadly risks of nuclear war had helped build support for nuclear disarmament, and in the case of the climate crisis could help our societies better prepare and plan how to respond.
“Understanding plausible worst-cases can propel public action,” he said.