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We could be on course for "outright chaos" and "political panic" unless something is done strategically and systematically to stop it.
While doomsday scenarios are not guaranteed, a new Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration paper states, they are more likely than 'conservative' climate change estimations suggest. This is due to positive feedback loops that are unaccounted for in many studies.
What does the study say?
The new report, titled Existential Climate-related Security Risk, says that a mobilization "akin in scale to the World War II emergency" is needed to prevent climate change becoming "an existential threat to human civilization."
In a week where Donald Trump has told the UK's Prince Charles that the US is "clean" on climate change, the paper's message is this; it is plausible that our planet could warm 3°C by 2050, causing our civilization to collapse.
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This 3°C scenario, the paper claims, will see semi-permanent El Niño conditions prevail in parts of the world, ecosystems collapse, and will lead to "lethal heat conditions, beyond the threshold of human survivability." Reduced water availability could affect up to 2 billion people.
The fact that this is a possibility means, firstly, that drastic measures are needed to avert disastrous climate change. Secondly, extreme scenario planning is a necessity in the case that these measures are not undertaken — or aren't enough.
"It should be noted," the paper says, "that this is far from an extreme scenario: the low-probability, high-impact warming (five percent probability) can exceed 3.5–4°C by 2050."
The study also claims that much of the science on climate change is "conservative and reticent." Positive feedback loops and tipping points, such as the release of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost, are often unaccounted for in large studies and could amplify warming beyond many estimations.
Action is necessary
The researchers argue that the only way forward is establishing a worldwide zero-emissions, industrial and economic strategy.
"To reduce this risk and protect human civilization, a massive global mobilization of resources is needed in the coming decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system and set in train the restoration of a safe climate," the paper explains.
Movements like Extinction Rebellion and the Young People March are pressuring policymakers to heed the warning on disastrous climate change before it's too late.
As the paper's foreword, written by Admiral Chris Barrie, explains, "We need a social tipping point that flips our thinking before we reach a tipping point in the climate system."