Many people believed that climate change occurs slowly and manifests itself slowly. The reality is that the climate can change very quickly and have very rapid effects on our civilization. This year we are witnessing severe impacts caused by climate change. These changes can worsen every year, and only now are governments of individual countries beginning to examine this threat and pay enough attention to it. Does climate change pose a direct existential threat to humanity?

This topic is under-researched

The big problem is that this is a very unexplored topic. There are no scenarios that humanity should prepare for. It is important to analyze the mechanisms that lead to extreme weather fluctuations and prepare for specific actions to be taken when extreme fluctuations occur. Climate disasters are an understudied topic that the scientific community should focus on. Climate change can make an area of ​​the world uninhabitable. Some think that the problem does not concern them and that “at worst” millions of people will perish in remote parts of the world. However, this problem has a domino effect. This can affect global food production, mass migration, social unrest and the struggle for resources. Climate change may ultimately result in war.

Cascading global climate failure. This is a causal loop diagram, in which a complete line represents a positive polarity (e.g., amplifying feedback; not necessarily positive in a normative sense) and a dotted line denotes a negative polarity (meaning a dampening feedback). Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

In the past, climate change has led to mass extinctions

“There are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe,” the authors of a new study write. The paper was published in the journal Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

“There are plenty of reasons to believe climate change could become catastrophic, even at modest levels of warming,” said lead author Dr. Luke Kemp from Cambridge’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk. “Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction event. It has helped fell empires and shaped history. Even the modern world seems adapted to a particular climate niche,” he said.

“Paths to disaster are not limited to the direct impacts of high temperatures, such as extreme weather events. Knock-on effects such as financial crises, conflict, and new disease outbreaks could trigger other calamities, and impede recovery from potential disasters such as nuclear war.”

Each degree means huge changes

When talking about an increase in the average temperature, most people think that the world will only get a few degrees Celsius warmer. Every tenth of a degree has a huge effect. Even small changes in temperatures can lead to ocean die-offs, extreme weather, heat waves, severe storms and floods. Below you can see a visualization of the heat wave in a NASA image from this summer of 2022.

Credit: NASA

“The more we learn about how our planet functions, the greater the reason for concern,” said co-author Prof Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “We increasingly understand that our planet is a more sophisticated and fragile organism. We must do the math of disaster in order to avoid it,” he said.

“By 2070, these temperatures and the social and political consequences will directly affect two nuclear powers, and seven maximum containment laboratories housing the most dangerous pathogens. There is serious potential for disastrous knock-on effects,” Kemp said.

What is the worst case scenario?

An enormous amount of CO2 is still being released into the atmosphere. Although efforts are being made to eliminate it, deforestation and the planet’s lower ability to absorb CO2 also play a role. Below we can see where international efforts should be directed.


“We know that temperature rise has a ‘fat tail’, which means a wide range of lower probability but potentially extreme outcomes. Facing a future of accelerating climate change while remaining blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk-management at best and fatally foolish at worst,” added co-author Prof Kristie Ebi from the University of Washington.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse

Is the apocalypse inevitable? The researchers proposed a research agenda based on four pillars called “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”. This is a climate endgame that consists of the following catastrophic threats:

  • famine/malnutrition
  • extreme weather
  • conflict
  • vector-borne diseases

The soil is already infertile in many places, when heat waves are added to this, the soil is unsuitable for agriculture. This will lead to poorer food supply. In addition, food prices will rise, so many people will not be able to buy them. Coastal areas are expected to become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. Huge numbers of people will migrate. Another threat is pandemics, melting permafrost can bring viruses that humanity is not prepared for. Until now, it was assumed that the extreme changes would occur in the distant future, but the changes are coming now and the world needs to start preparing for how it will react.


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