It sounds like the plot of some far-fetched eco-thriller, but could climate change lead to civilisation collapse?
A new opinion piece published in respected scientific journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, has called for more research into how climate change might – just possibly – precipitate a civilisation collapse.
The researchers say that the idea needs to be taken seriously, so that it’s not just film-makers dealing with the idea of eco-apocalypse but scientists too.
The researchers point towards several scenarios, such as climate change causing collapse of some urban areas, while others suffer food and water scarcity – or global collapse where urban areas around the world are abandoned, nations are no more, and global population falls.
The researchers say that the direct effects of climate change – such as drought, flooding, and extreme heat – are only one risk.
The researchers write that climate change may also have indirect effects on systems like trade and international cooperation, which might in turn lead to political conflict, dysfunction, and war.
These shocks could lead to reduced adaptability which would leave nations vulnerable to other shocks, like pandemics.
Daniel Steel, of the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, said, “Scientists have warned that climate change threatens the habitability of large regions of the Earth and even civilization itself, but surprisingly little research exists about how collapse could happen and what can be done to prevent it.
“A better understanding of the risks of collapse is essential for climate ethics and policy.”
“The danger climate change poses to civilization shouldn’t just be left for journalists, philosophers, and filmmakers to ponder. Scientists have a responsibility to investigate this, too.”
Last year, a UN report warned that extreme weather events like heatwaves and droughts which previously would have happened every 50 years could soon happen every four.
The report, by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was the first to quantify the likelihood of extreme events across a wide variety of scenarios.
Dr. Robert Rohde, lead scientist of Berkeley Earth, said, “What were once-in-50-year heat extremes are now occurring every 10 years.
“By a rise of two degrees celsius, those same extremes will occur every 3.5 years.”
The report found that (for example) once-in-a-decade heavy rain events are already 1.3 times more likely and 6.7% wetter, compared with the 50 years leading up to 1900 when human-driven warning began to occur.
Droughts that previously happened once a decade now happen every five or six years.
Xuebin Zhang, a climatologist with Environment Canada in Toronto warned that as the world warms, such extreme weather events will not just become more frequent, they will become more severe.
Zhang said that the world should also expect more compound events, such as heat waves and long-term droughts occurring simultaneously.
“We are not going to be hit just by one thing, we are going to be hit by multiple things at the same time,” Zhang added.
Watch: Apocalypse Wow – doomsday bunkers for the global elite
Visit our sponsors
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is the cheaper, easier way to send money abroad. It helps people move money quickly and easily between bank accounts in different countries. Convert 60+ currencies with ridiculously low fees - on average 7x cheaper than a bank. No hidden fees, no markup on the exchange rate, ever.