Experts call for a new ‘Climate Endgame’ research agenda, and say far too little work has gone into understanding the mechanisms by which rising temperatures might pose a catastrophic risk to society and humanity.
In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to dedicate a future report to catastrophic climate change to galvanise research and inform the public.
“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
Luke wrote a Twitter thread summarising and clarifying the article. He emphasises that we need serious study of how climate change contributes to global catastrophic risk, and need to understand the probabilities and mechanisms of plausible extreme risks so we can prevent them. He focuses on their analysis of how climate change intersects with other risks. For example, there are locations where extreme heat state fragility and potential nuclear and biological hazards coincide, creating the potential for a set of cascading effects.
More media coverage of the paper:
- AP News: Chances of climate catastrophe are ignored, scientists say. This includes the following warning from Luke’s co-author University of Washington public health and climate professor Kristie Ebi: ‘ “If we don’t look at the intersecting risks, we’ll be painfully surprised” … 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.’
- Sky News: Catastrophic effects of climate change are 'dangerously unexplored', experts warn
- Axios: Climate change catastrophes need greater study, scientists warn. This includes a great quote from Luke: "This isn’t about disaster voyeurism; it is about understanding plausible catastrophic risks so we can prevent them."
Reply to Burgess et al: Catastrophic climate risks are neglected, plausible, and safe to study
Reply to Kelman: The foundations for studying catastrophic climate risks
Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios