FLI Podcast: Climate Crisis as an Existential Threat: Simon Beard & Haydn Belfield

02 August 2019

Does the climate crisis pose an existential threat? And is that even the best way to formulate the question, or should we be looking at the relationship between the climate crisis and existential threats differently? In this month’s FLI podcast, Ariel Conn was joined by Simon Beard and Haydn Belfield of the University of Cambridge’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), who explained why, despite the many unknowns, it might indeed make sense to study climate change as an existential threat. Simon and Haydn broke down the different systems underlying human civilization and the ways climate change threatens these systems; They also discussed our species’ unique strengths and vulnerabilities — and the ways in which technology has heightened both — with respect to the changing climate.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • What an existential risk is and how to classify different threats
  • Systems critical to human civilization
  • Destabilizing conditions and the global systems death spiral
  • How we’re vulnerable as a species
  • The “rungless ladder”
  • Why we can’t wait for technology to solve climate change
  • Uncertainty and how to deal with it
  • How to incentivize more creative science
  • What individuals can do

References discussed in this episode include:

  • Should We Care About The Worst-Case Scenario When It Comes To Climate Change?   (Simon Beard 2017)
  • Well below 2 degrees C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes (Yangyang Xu & Veerabhadran Ramanathan 2017)
  • The Third Degree: Evidence and implications for Australia of existential climate-related security risk(Breakthrough 2019)
  • Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating ClimateTragedy (Jem Bendell 2018)
    Is climate change an “existential threat” — or just a catastrophic one? (Vox 2019)
  • Will Climate Change Wipe Out Humanity? (Anders Sandberg 2019)
  • Planetary boundaries research (Stockholm Resilience Center) 
  • Hothouse Earth research (Stockholm Resilience Center)
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Jared Diamond 2005)

Want to get involved? CSER is hiring! Find a list of openings here.

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