The Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, an Australian think tank specialising in climate change research, has published a new policy paper outlining a catastrophic scenario in which civilisation as we know it may collapse by as soon as 2050 if policymakers don't address the issue in the next decade.
The report, which has the stated aim of correcting scientists' more modest predictions about climate change by accounting for a range of interconnected processes that accompany each rise in global temperatures, including positive feedback loops like the emission of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost, sets up a scenario where countries continue to largely ignore evidence of manmade greenhouse emissions, locking in a minimum 3° Celsius rise in global temperatures.
In the scenario, even with emissions peaking in 2030 before starting to decline, the damage is done and higher temperatures are locked in, activating "a number of carbon-cycle feedbacks and higher levels of ice albedo and cloud feedbacks than current models assume".
By this point, the Jet Stream is destabilised, affecting the monsoon seasons in Asia and West Africa, while the Gulf Stream slows, affecting Europe's life support systems. As North America faces "devastating weather extremes including wildfires, heatwaves, drought and inundations", China and other Asian countries will suffer from reduced water flows in their rivers. Southern Africa, the southern Mediterranean, inland Australia, and the south-western United States will be hit with "severe" desertification.
Amid the climate turmoil and the collapse of multiple ecosystems stretching from the Arctic to the Amazon rainforest, vast portions of tropical areas inhabited by over one billion people will become uninhabitable. Meanwhile, decreased water availability in lower latitude dry tropical and subtropical areas affect two billion more, according to the scenario.
The report warns that the culmination of these climactic factors include a significant drop in food production across most of the world, with extreme weather events including heat waves, floods, and reduced access to water resources leading to a breakdown in the international order, with countries starting wars for control over scarce resources.
"The lower reaches of agriculturally-important river deltas such as the Mekong, Ganges and Nile are inundated, and significant sectors of some of the world's most populous cities –including Chennai, Mumbai, Jakarta, Guanzhou, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Lagos, Bangkok and Manila – are abandoned", the report notes.
Ultimately, the think tank warns that "even for 2°C of warming, more than a billion people may need to be relocated and in high-end scenarios, the scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model, with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end".
The Australian think tank's report is one of a series of dire warnings by researchers studying climate change about the need for concerted action to tackle the issue. Earlier this year, data from NASA's low-Earth-orbit Aqua satellite revealed that meteorologists' concerns about temperature changes at the Earth's poles were not only justified, but below the actual rate observed in over 15 years of infrared radiation measurements.