Shelly Alcorn

Climate Endgame - A New Research Agenda

Earlier this week on The Phoenix Cast we looked at a look at a paper recently published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) entitled, "Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate-change scenarios."

This paper pulls zero punches as it outlines the potential consequences of catastrophic climate change, and discusses the need for a research agenda to look at the interconnected issues and follow-on effects started or exacerbated by extreme weather events and that could lead to the rapid destabilization of our global civilization.

This proposed research agenda would focus on the following categories:

  • Understanding extreme climate change dynamics and effects in the long term
  • Exploring climate-triggered pathways to mass morbidity and mortality
  • Investigating social fragility: vulnerabilities, risk cascades, and risk responses
  • Synthesizing the research findings into “integrated catastrophe assessments”

We included an image from the paper that illustrates the interaction between systems, beginning with global warming at the top, and food, fuel and water shortages driving change from the bottom. Even looking at just these major nodes, you can see almost infinite variability of outcomes depending on which factors are the most powerful, and which move on unpredictable time scales.

What isn't necessarily on here, but we could add, would be the responses of various industries and professions as they become affected by the various factors at issue. As association leaders, we have a responsibility to conduct risk management assessments for our members, and now is the time to step up and include these additional risks as we analyze the vulnerabilities of our members.
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