The world needs to prepare for human extinction because of climate change, according to a shocking new study.
Scientists say global warming could become “catastrophic” for humanity if temperatures rise by even more than they are predicted to, or if heating sets off chains of events that have not yet been predicted.
A team led by Cambridge University academics in the UK say we should prepare for horror scenarios ranging from the loss of 10 percent of the world’s population to the end of human life on Earth.
The researchers say the consequences of more than 3°C of warming, compared with pre-industrial times, have not been explored well enough.
Last year’s IPCC report suggested that if atmospheric CO2 doubles from pre-industrial levels – something the planet is halfway towards – then there is around an 18 percent chance temperatures will rise beyond 4.5°C.
The world is on track for 2.9°C of warming by 2100 if governments’ existing policies, as opposed to pledges they have made, are followed, according to Climate Action Tracker.
Scientists say 1.5°C is a safe level of heating.
The team wants new research to focus on the “four horsemen” of the climate endgame: famine and malnutrition, extreme weather, conflict, and vector-borne diseases.
Rising temperatures raise the risk of crop failures in the world’s most fertile agricultural areas and hotter weather could cause outbreaks of deadly new diseases as habitats for both people and animals shift and shrink.
The authors say catastrophic warming will also make other existing threats worse- including rising inequality, misinformation, democratic breakdown and even new forms of destructive AI weaponry.
They add that technologically advanced superpowers may end up fighting each other in “warm wars” where they fight over dwindling carbon space and even fund expensive experiments to deflect sunlight and reduce global temperatures.
Researchers need to better understand tipping points that could spark disaster- such as melting permafrost that releases methane, the loss of forests that store carbon and even cloud cover, the team argue.