A recent report determined climate change as the principal apocalyptic event that could wipe out 10 percent of the population on Earth.
The emission of greenhouse gases has been on a continual rise ever since the Industrial Revolution. At their highest levels now, they have caused global surface and ocean warming, a report from Global Challenges stated. While the consequences of high levels of warming will be alarming, the “tail risk” of lower probability – catastrophic, nonetheless – should also be taken into consideration.
As a result of high climate sensitivity, greenhouse emissions could bring about what the report calls “catastrophic climate change,” resulting in the melting of arctic permafrost and causing the release of methane in the atmosphere (methane is a potent greenhouse gas).
The report – titled Global Catastrophic Risks 2016, released last week – also says that these apocalyptic events brought about by climate change “are more likely than we intuitively think.”
Temperatures exceeding pre-industrial levels have been reported to adversely affect the climate; with the damages increasing at higher temperatures. Warming of 6 degrees over pre-industrial levels could possibly be catastrophic.
Temperature warming is directly related to the amount of carbon released in the atmosphere. According to the report, the most effective way to curb the excessive release of greenhouse emissions is by imposing a carbon tax. While the price of carbon at present is $4 per tonne, it has been noted that a price of almost ten times – $40 per tonne – would be needed to fully prince in the externalities from disastrous climate change.
While the level of warming responsible for a global catastrophe has not been determined, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated, “Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels in all reasons for concern, and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year.”