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Global warming could trigger nuclear war, financial crisis or extinction-level pandemic by 2070

As global temperatures continue to rise, a new study has warned we are getting dangerously close to a “climate endgame.”

Researchers from the University of Cambridge claim that global warming could lead to nuclear war, a financial crisis or an extinction-level pandemic as early as 2070.

Based on their findings, the researchers are calling on authorities to prepare for such events.

“There are plenty of reasons to believe that climate change could be catastrophic, even with modest warming,” said Dr Luke Kemp, lead author of the study.

Cambridge University researchers claim global warming could lead to nuclear war, financial crisis or extinction-level pandemic as early as 2070

Cambridge University researchers claim global warming could lead to nuclear war, financial crisis or extinction-level pandemic as early as 2070

The ‘four horsemen’ of the climate endgame

The researchers state that research is needed in four key areas, which they call the ‘four horsemen’ of the climate endgame.

These are famine and malnutrition, extreme weather, conflict and vector-borne diseases.

Global food supplies are threatened by rising temperatures, with an increasing risk of “granary” as the world’s most agriculturally productive areas suffer “collective meltdowns,” the researchers said.

More extreme weather can also create conditions for new outbreaks of disease, as habitats for both humans and wildlife shift and shrink.

Meanwhile, the risk of “interacting” threats such as democratic collapses and new forms of destructive AI weapons is also likely to increase alongside rising temperatures.

For example, the researchers say “warm wars” could become commonplace, in which technologically enhanced superpowers battle for both dwindling carbon space and gigantic experiments to deflect sunlight and lower global temperatures.

‘Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction. It has helped to drop empires and shape history. Even the modern world seems adapted to a particular climate niche.

‘Paths to disasters are not limited to the direct effects of high temperatures, such as extreme weather events.

“Emphasis effects such as financial crises, conflicts and new disease outbreaks can trigger other calamities and hinder recovery from potential disasters such as nuclear war.”

In the study, the team used modeling to estimate the effects of a warming of 3°C (5.4°F) and more.

Their estimates indicate that areas of extreme heat where annual average temperatures exceed 29 °C (84 °F) will cover two billion people by 2070.

Worryingly, these areas are among the most politically vulnerable and also the most populous, according to the team.

“Average annual temperatures of 29 degrees currently affect about 30 million people in the Sahara and the Gulf Coast,” said co-author Chi Xu of Nanjing University.

By 2070, these temperatures and the social and political consequences will directly affect two nuclear powers and seven maximum containment labs that house the most dangerous pathogens.

“There is serious potential for catastrophic knock-on effects.”

The researchers state that research is needed in four key areas, which they call the ‘four horsemen’ of the climate endgame.

These are famine and malnutrition, extreme weather, conflict and vector-borne diseases.

This map shows the overlap between state fragility, extreme heat, and nuclear and biological catastrophic hazards

This map shows the overlap between state fragility, extreme heat, and nuclear and biological catastrophic hazards

Earth Overshoot Day is earlier than EVER

Humans have already used a year’s worth of natural resources by 2022 – a calendar event known as Earth Overshoot Day.

The annual date marks the point at which humanity has used all the biological resources that the Earth can regenerate in that year.

But in 2022 it will be sooner than ever before, largely due to a demand for food, land, timber and new urban infrastructure to meet a growing population.

Demand for these resources exceeds the Earth’s biocapacity — its ability to renew those resources — meaning we are now effectively in the red.

It also means that we have surpassed the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products such as carbon dioxide.

Co-author Professor Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington said, “We need an interdisciplinary effort to understand how climate change can cause massive human morbidity and mortality.”

Global food supplies are threatened by rising temperatures, with an increasing risk of “granary” as the world’s most agriculturally productive areas suffer “collective meltdowns,” the researchers said.

More extreme weather can also create conditions for new outbreaks of disease, as habitats for both humans and wildlife shift and shrink.

Meanwhile, the risk of “interacting” threats such as democratic collapses and new forms of destructive AI weapons is also likely to increase alongside rising temperatures.

For example, the researchers say “warm wars” could become commonplace, in which technologically enhanced superpowers battle for both dwindling carbon space and gigantic experiments to deflect sunlight and lower global temperatures.

“The more we learn about how our planet functions, the greater the cause for concern,” said study co-author Prof Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

‘We understand more and more that our planet is a more advanced and vulnerable organism.

“We have to do the math of disaster to avoid it.”

Professor Kemp concluded: ‘We know that temperature rise has a ‘fat tail’ meaning a wide range of lower probability but potentially extreme results.

“Facing a future of accelerated climate change and remaining blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and deadly foolish at worst.”

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