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What lies beneath: The understatement of existential climate risk
Human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation: an adverse outcome that will either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential, unless carbon emissions are rapidly reduced.
Climate policymaking and the public narrative are significantly informed by the important work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, IPCC reports also tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama”, and downplaying the more extreme and more damaging outcomes. Whilst this has been understandable historically, given the pressure exerted upon the IPCC by political and vested interests, it is now becoming dangerously misleading with the acceleration of climate impacts globally. What were lower-probability, higher-impact events are now becoming more likely.
This report argues that if climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required. This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UNFCCC negotiations in order to address the real climate challenge.