The group of international experts said more research is needed into the worst outcomes of catastrophic climate changes, including the potential for social collapse or human extinction.
More research is needed on climate change leading to social collapse or human extinction, the researchers said, warning that such potentially catastrophic outcomes are “dangerously unexplored.”
A team of international experts led by the University of Cambridge said not enough research had been done on the possible worst-case scenario, despite “ample reason to suspect that climate change could result in global catastrophe“.
Writing in a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said looking at the extreme consequences of climate change could “drive action, enhance resilience, and inform policy.”
They have asked the Intergovernmental Panel on catastrophic climate changes (IPCC) to dedicate a future report to catastrophic climate change.
Lead author Dr Luke Kemp, from the Center for the Study of Existential Risk in Cambridge, said: “There is every reason to believe that climate change could turn catastrophic, even with modest levels of warming.
“Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction event.
“It has helped topple empires and shaped history.
“Even the modern world seems to be adapted to a particular climatic niche.
“Pathways to disaster are not limited to direct impacts of high temperatures, such as extreme weather events.
“Collateral effects such as financial crises, conflicts and new disease outbreaks could trigger other calamities and impede recovery from potential disasters such as nuclear war.”
The researchers argue that the consequences of 3C warming and its extreme risks are underexamined.
They have proposed a research agenda that includes what they call the “four horsemen” of the end of climate: famine and malnutrition, extreme weather, conflict, and vector-borne diseases.
“We understand more and more that our planet is a more sophisticated and fragile organism.
“We must do the calculations of the disaster to avoid it.”