Catastrophic Climate Change Makes List of Mankind’s Most Serious Threats
Extreme climate change is among the greatest threats facing mankind, says a new study released by the Global Challenges Foundation
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The GCF works to raise awareness of Global Catastrophic Risks, defined as events that would end the lives of roughly 10 percent or more of the global population, or do comparable damage.
The industrial landscape across the Dee Estuary at sunrise as steam rises from Deeside power station, Shotton Steelworks and other heavy industrial plants on April 13, 2016 in Flint, Wales. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The list includes “significant ongoing risks” such as nuclear war and worldwide disease outbreaks but also highlights several scenarios that are “unlikely today but will become significantly more likely in the coming decades,”such as the continued rise of artificial intelligence.
It’s there, among the emerging risks, that the study places the threat of catastrophic climate change.
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Even if we succeed in limiting emissions, the study says, scientists expect significant climate change to occur, which could lead to a host of global challenges including environmental degradation, migration, and the possibility of resource conflict.
The study goes on to say that, in a worse case scenario, global warming could top 6 degrees Celsius, which would leave “large swathes of the planet dramatically less habitable.”
“The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points – thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change – remain uncertain,“ the study says, “but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature.”
The main goal of the study is to raise awareness of these potential catastrophes and encourage greater global cooperation to keep them at bay.
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“Market and political distortions mean that these risks are likely to be systematically neglected by many actors,” the study says.
The study suggests there are three main ways to reduce the risks from climate change: adaptation to climate change, abatement of emissions, and geo-engineering. Research communities should increase their focus on understanding the pathways to and the likelihood of catastrophic climate change, and possible ways to respond, the study says.
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This photo illustration depicts Durban, South Africa, after a 2 degrees Celsius increase in global temperature, a threshold that, if surpassed, could usher in catastrophic global impacts from climate change. (Credit: sealevel.climatecentral.org/Nickolay Lamm)
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