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Climate change among greatest threats to human civilisation



Extreme climate change has been listed as one of the global challenges that pose the greatest threat to human civilisation in a new report. The paper aims to inspire collaborative action from global leaders.

The report, published by the Global Challenges Foundation, looks at current and emerging risks, as well as global policy concerns and exogenic threats. The risks listed have the potential to threaten human civilisation, and in some cases life on earth.

Climate change is considered a ‘current risk’ in the report. Key factors in the threat of climate change include the likelihood of countries working together to control emissions and the future uptake of low carbon economies, including energy, mobility and food systems.

The report states, “The impact of global warming would be strongest in poor countries, which could become completely uninhabitable for the highest range of warming.

“Mass deaths and famines, social collapse and mass migration are certainly possible in this scenario. Combined with shocks to agriculture and biosphere-dependent industries of the more developed countries, this could lead to global conflict and possibly civilisation collapse.”

The Global Challenges Foundation notes that climate models tend to underestimate uncertainty, so there is a chance that in coming decades humanity could be faced with global temperature rise of 4C, or even 6C. The international agreed limit of global warming is 2C, beyond this scientists have warned of irreversible and unpredictable impacts.

Other risks highlighted in the report are nuclear war, global pandemic, ecological catastrophe, global system collapse, major asteroid impact, super-volcano, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, future bad global governance and unknown consequences.

The report also shows the relationship between these risks, for example nuclear war, a major asteroid impact or a super-volcano would worsen the risk of extreme climate change. Extreme climate change is linked to bad global governance and ecological collapse.

Dennis Pamlin, senior advisor of the global challenges foundation and co-author of the report, commented, “One of our primary goals of this report and its categorisation of the 12 global risks –each with the potential to deeply impact human civilisation – is to inspire practical, collaborative action from global leaders.”

Poverty and population growth, both of which affect sustainability, are also indentified as ‘underlying trends of key importance’.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Further reading:

New report lays down climate change challenge to energy sector

Climate change scientists face ‘credibility challenge’

Tackling climate change could address economic and social challenges, says report

Climate change is solvable and is ‘a great opportunity’

World can meet climate targets and live well, finds government initiative

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