Discover more from Planet Earth & Beyond
Is Climate Change The End?
We may have underestimated the severity of the situation.
Over the years, I have been accused of scaremongering or overexaggerating the risks of climate change a number of times. It is one of the reasons I struggle to fully interact on social media, as these criticisms come out of nowhere and don’t address the data or evidence I present in my work, but rather resort to baseless character attacks. Quite frankly, I have happier and more important things to do, but it is necessary to address these criticisms. Especially as you, my readers, likely face the same barrage of mindless carping. So, here is why climate change could be the end and why you and everyone else shouldn’t underestimate the threat we face.
I want to start with some recent research. You see, most climate research focuses on figuring out how to mitigate or predict it. However, this research aimed to see if we had thoroughly explored the dangers of climate change and if the scientific world has an accurate picture of what we are up against. The results were terrifying, as they found that the risk of global societal collapse or human extinction has been “dangerously underexplored.”
** Quick interruption, if you want more from me, or interact with me, go follow me on Bluesky**
They labelled such events the “climate endgame,” and while they found it had a relatively small chance of happening, it absolutely can’t be ruled out. This is because the legislation and plans to predictably and reliably reduce global emissions to net-zero are far from finalised and enacted. This is allowing China to dramatically expand its coal power fleet and enabling the Western world to drag its heels on climate action. So, predicting what the climate will be like and the implications of it in 30 years or so has a massive amount of variability, as carbon emissions over this time have an enormous potential range.
This study found that the upper estimates of potential climate change have been woefully unexplored and that the scientific community, governmental community and the general public are unaware of the extent of the potential risks posed by climate change. In particular, they cited that research into the impact of global warming levels over 3 degrees Celsius, which is more than possible without current progress (more on that later), is basically non-existent. The scientists themselves said, “Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst,” and added that there are “ample reasons” to suspect climate change could end up causing an apocalyptic disaster.
Climate change, even if it exceeds our targets by a smidgen, can be so destructive because it can impact us in so many different direct and indirect ways. The scientists put it best themselves: “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.”
This is backed up by numerous research papers and reports. A few months ago, I covered how the European Central Bank found that nearly 75% of the continent’s bank loans rely on a healthy environment, and an ecological collapse could trigger a massive and crippling recession. Other developed countries likely have the same situation. Countless research papers have found that pandemics become more prevalent, widespread and deadly thanks to climate change, as it forces animals to interact in ways they never have before, making novel species jumping diseases far more likely. As we learnt from COVID-19, which wasn’t a particularly deadly pandemic in the grand scheme of things, these pandemics can be incredibly damaging. Climate change also enables diseases typically restrained to tropical regions to spread into colder and more densely populated latitudes, where the populations aren’t used to fighting them off. Research has even found that there will be billions of climate refugees in the years to come as civilians flee countries that become uninhabitable to humans due to unsurvivable excessive heat, failing crops and lack of water caused by climate change. This will be the largest refugee crisis humanity has ever faced. This, combined with other local stressors of climate change, such as reduced food supplies and extreme weather, can put an enormous strain on society, potentially enough to break it and cause the fall of governments.
All of these research papers do not take an extreme view of climate change; they take a middle-of-the-road prediction that includes dramatically tighter climate legislation in the future (something which is far from guaranteed).
So, why has research into the impacts of the upper climate change prediction not been adequately conducted and spread? I don’t know, but I have an idea as to why. Such research can be labelled as scaremongering, and certain political parties and unscrupulous businesses would push the narrative that such research has a hidden agenda or conspiracy theory behind it. I don’t think scientists or climate research bodies want to be the ones to poke their heads above the parapet like this and take such illogical and backward scrutiny, as it could undermine their work and empower who they are fighting against. Though, this is just my little theory.
But here is the thing: there is a school of thought that massive climate change is more likely than we think. This comes from the idea of climate tipping points. Let me explain.
Current predictions estimate that we will likely see about 3 degrees Celsius of global warming with our current rate of progress. That is double the target of the Paris Agreement. We probably won’t hit this temperature until this century’s second half.
But, as the globe warms, environments, climate systems and ecologies change, and as they change, they can also, in turn, impact the climate. As such, there are possible positive feedback loops that can be caused by shifts in environments, climate systems and ecologies, which can set off dramatic sudden global warming or runaway climate change. These are known as climate tipping points.
Possibly the most famous of these is the Arctic Permafrost Collapse. You see, the permafrost around the Arctic is incredibly rich in carbon deposits. In total, this permanently frozen ground has about 1,700 billion tons of carbon dioxide and methane trapped inside it (which mostly originated from decomposition). That is equivalent to 47 years’ worth of human emissions at our current rate, which is by far the most we have ever emitted annually. So, as the globe warms, this permafrost thaws and releases its trapped carbon deposits, causing more warming, causing more trapped deposits to be released, and so on, leading to dramatic, sudden and devastating climate change.
Here is the terrifying thing. At 3 degrees of global warming, we risk triggering 11 of these climate tipping points. Namely, Greenland Ice Sheet Collapse, West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse, Tropical Reef Die Off, Permafrost Thaw, Barents Sea ice loss, Labrador Sea current collapse, Mountain glacier loss, West Africa monsoon shift, East Arctic glacier collapse, Amazon rainforest dieback and the Northern Permafrost collapse we just talked about. Each one of these can cause havoc worldwide, from catastrophic sea level rise to destruction of resources, runaway climate change and even direct threats to human life through far more frequent and powerful extreme weather.
Now, we are still investigating how likely and rapidly these events will happen and at precisely what level of global warming can trigger them. So, I can’t say with any certainty that these events will occur. All I can say is that there is a sizeable risk of them happening. This is what that first bit of research was trying to highlight: we don’t fully understand the risks of the upper limit of climate change. However, this risk is still very much real. If we overstep our climate targets, even by a bit, we risk falling down these slippery slopes. If that happens, our modern lives are at tremendous risk, as our civilisations aren’t designed to cope with such drastic and rapid global change and destruction.
So, am I exaggerating? I think not. Yes, we don’t fully understand the risks yet. However, we understand enough to know that we are ploughing headlong into the biggest threat humanity has ever faced, and it is entirely self-made. This is not hyperbole; that statement is backed by my citations below. This doesn’t mean we can’t have hope for a better future. The technology to save the planet and ourselves already exists; we just have to adopt it. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the genuine possibility of a grim future of biblical and deadly weather, widespread ecological collapse, and even possible societal collapse.
Thanks for reading! Content like this doesn’t happen without your support. So, if you want to see more like this, don’t forget to Subscribe and follow us on Google News and Flipboard and follow me on Bluesky, or hit the share button below.