It comes less than a month after the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a “code red” for humanity over climate change. They warned of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. And now experts have painted a bleak picture for the human race.
Scientists warn that ignoring the climate crisis will yield “untold suffering” for humanity.
They say that although climate change will not directly cause an extinction event, that it could play a huge role, such as by leading to food and water scarcity, which has the potential to trigger a societal collapse and set the stage for global conflict.
Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, said: “There’s no reason to exaggerate the climate threat. The truth is bad enough, and reason enough to take dramatic action.”
Professor Mann believes a global temperature increase of 3C lead to a collapse of our societal infrastructure and massive unrest and conflict.
One way this could play out is by creating food insecurity.
Warming the planet has a range of negative impacts on food production, including increasing the water deficit and thereby reducing food harvests.
Luke Kemp, a research associate at the University of Cambridge, studies previous civilisation collapses and the risk of climate change.
He told Live Science that extinction events almost always involve multiple factors, but he thinks that if humans were to go extinct, climate change would likely be the main culprit.
He said: “If I’m to say, what do I think is the biggest contributor to the potential for human extinction going towards the future? Then climate change, no doubt.”
It’s still not clear exactly why Neanderthals went extinct about 40,000 years ago, but, according to the Natural History Museum, climatic fluctuations may have broken their population up into smaller, fragmented groups.
But experts say it isn’t too late for us to avoid the worst-case climate change scenarios.
Prof Mann added: “It is up to us.
“If we fail to reduce carbon emissions substantially in the decade ahead, we are likely committed to a worsening of already dangerous extreme weather events, inundation of coastlines around the world due to melting ice and rising sea level, more pressure on limited resources as a growing global population competes for less food, water and space due to climate change impacts.
“If we act boldly now, we can avoid the worst impacts.”