In 2022, the rising effects of climate change are really being felt now globally — from massive heat waves in Europe to Australia's historic bushfire season and the recent extreme flood events in the U.S. A group of top climate scientists have come forward to argue that more in-depth research is urgently needed into worst-case scenarios — including human extinction — which they call a "climate endgame."
"Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios" was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and is authored by eleven researchers from around the world. They propose a research agenda into the consequences of global warming, specifically the worst-case scenarios they claim have been understudied.
Dr. Luke Kemp, one of the paper’s authors, discusses what he and his colleagues are warning in the new analysis in the video below.
The researchers define such warming as a temperature increase of 3°C or above pre-industrial levels, which is well within the current scope of possibility by the end of the century.
Most current climate models are based on an increase of up to 2°C. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to hold the global average temperature to well below 2°C with a goal to limit the temperature increase to only 1.5°C.
Many scientists now think this target is unrealistic. The scientists include four main areas of concern -- what the authors termed the "four horseman" of climate change: famine and malnutrition, extreme weather, conflict, and vector-borne diseases.
"Irreversible and potentially catastrophic risks caused by human induced climate change must be factored into our planning and actions," said Johan Rockstrom, PIK director and a study co-author.
He said that the more research is done on Earth's climate tipping points -- such as the irreversible melting of the ice caps or the Amazon rainforest turning from a carbon sink to source -- showed the ever-greater need to factor in high-risk scenarios into climate modeling.
“Understanding extreme risks is important for robust decision-making, from preparation to consideration of emergency responses," the authors write. "This requires exploring not just higher temperature scenarios but also the potential for climate change impacts to contribute to systemic risk and other cascades. We suggest that it is time to seriously scrutinize the best way to expand our research horizons to cover this field.”
The paper provides a range of plausible ways in which climate change could tip society into more precarious outcomes than what has previously been presented to the public, and proposes a rigorous academic research agenda for conducting an “integrated catastrophe assessment.”
Citizens around the globe are already collectively feeling the effects of climate change and may not want to hear scientists are now predicting an even more catastrophic scenario.