|David Spratt, as shown on the |
Climate Emergency Declaration website
News media is full of accounts about an Australian report, entitled “Existential Climate-Related Security Risk,” by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, that was published in May 2019. Readers will learn about “existential threats” that may undermine civilization within 30 years. That falls within the lifetime of our children.
The gist of the study is this. We need to examine not just the most likely scenarios when looking at future impacts from climate change, but also the more severe but less likely ones. The report explains how most climate scientists avoid excess drama, and work with simulation models that might not capture all of the forces that may make climate change more extreme than the scenarios commonly contemplated. Also, there is a general bias in society toward not examining the less likely but more extreme scenarios from a public policy perspective.
The concept of “risk,” as discussed by the authors, is a combination of the likelihood of a bad scenario and the magnitude of its impact on civilization. In their view, “existential risk” is a risk of consequences so severe that civilization or even intelligent life may be in jeopardy. They go on to explain that, without a concerted effort to address the climate crisis, the probability of the more extreme outcomes becomes more likely, and that it is prudent for us to focus on unprecedented possible outcomes rather than the most probable one.
The more extreme scenarios that result from inaction on climate change are ones that lead to large portions of the earth being rendered to hot to live in, the collapse of food systems, mass evacuations from coastal cities, and other things that will destabilize our economic and political systems. Given that we can find ourselves in a world of absolute chaos, it would be most prudent to examine and act to avoid the less likely scenarios before the climate crisis reaches the point of no return.
The climate emergency requires us to look at this issue without flinching, much like how a military strategic planner would approach it. Fortunately, groups such as the Climate Energy Declaration are organizing to press society to begin mobilization to address the urgency.
Our generation did not choose this challenge; rather, it chose us. We cannot pass this on to our children. It is up to us, and failure is not an option.
- Jeff Gahris