SINGAPORE — A dystopian world beset by “outright chaos”, overwhelming threats to global security and political panic, could be upon mankind by 2050, a report from an Australian think-tank has warned.
Climate change, if left on its current trajectory, could by then spell the end of global civilisation as it is known, as devastating floods, lethal heat conditions “beyond the threshold of human survivability” and the collapse of ecosystems, grip the planet.
This nightmare 2050 scenario was presented in a policy paper published on May 30 by independent Australian think-tank Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. It has also been endorsed by a former Australian defence chief.
“Climate change now represents a near to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation,” said the authors of the paper, Mr David Spratt, a research director at the think-tank and Mr Ian Dunlop, a former chairman of the Australian Coal Association and a former international oil, gas and coal industry executive.
A new approach to climate-related security risk management is needed, with the authors suggesting that that it is “essential to build a zero-emissions industrial system very quickly”.
“This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response,” they added. “Give analytical focus to the role of near-term action as a determinant in preventing planetary and human systems reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.”
The paper comes a few months after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a similarly dire warningin its report last October.
In that report, the world’s leading climate scientists said that there are only 12 years left for countries to limit the impact of climate change.
Left unabated, it could lead to extensive drought, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people, the IPCC report said.
The latest report by the Australian think-tank titled "Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach", noted that if the world continues on its current trajectory over the next decade, it will likely lock in at least 3°C of global warming.
By 2050, the ramifications could be disastrous: A number of ecosystems could collapse, including the coral reef systems, the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic, said the report.
A scenario that could unfold: North America suffers from devastating wildfires and heatwaves, summer monsoons in China have failed and rainfall in Mexico as well as central America falls by half. More than a billion people across South-east Asia, West Africa, South America and the Middle East are displaced as their environment becomes unlivable owing to deadly heat conditions that persist for more than 100 days per year.
Water availability decreases sharply, affecting about two billion people, while there could be a significant drop in food production amid an increasing number of extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods and storms.
The impact on the environment could have consequences on national security too, said the report. Nations will be “overwhelmed by the scale of change and pernicious challenges” such as pandemic diseases.
“The internal cohesion of nations will be under great stress, including in the United States, both as a result of a dramatic rise in migration and changes in agricultural patterns and water availability,” said the report.
Armed conflict could break out between nations over resources. Worse, a nuclear war “is possible”. The report added: “The social consequences range from increased religious fervour to outright chaos.”
The authors of the report pointed out that the scenario “provides a glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilisation and modern society as we have known it, in which the challenges to global security are simply overwhelming and political panic becomes the norm”.
In their policy recommendations, both Mr Spratt and Mr Dunlop said that governments need to recognise the limitations of policy-relevant climate change research, which may exhibit “scientific reticence”.
They urge governments to adopt a scenario approach focusing on “high-end warming possibilities” when dealing with climate change. This could help countries understand the climate and security risks.
They also called on countries to “urgently examine” the role national security sector can play in providing leadership and capacity to build a zero-emissions industrial system and draw down carbon to protect human civilisation.
In a foreword endorsing the report, Australia’s former defence chief, retired Admiral Chris Barrie, said the authors “have laid bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation” faced by the planet and the human race.
They have painted a “disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on Earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way”, he added.