Civilization collapse is likely by the end of this century

15,000 scientists co-sign a study warning of environmental disaster.

An international team of 12 authors of a study published in the journal BioScience on 24 October 2023 began the paper with a straightforward warning that "life on planet Earth is under siege" as the humanity is doing very little to prevent a disaster of epic proportions, triggered by climate change. 

“We are now in an uncharted territory. For several decades, scientists have consistently warned of a future marked by extreme climatic conditions because of escalating global temperatures caused by ongoing human activities that release harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, time is up. We are seeing the manifestation of those predictions as an alarming and unprecedented succession of climate records are broken, causing profoundly distressing scenes of suffering to unfold. We are entering an unfamiliar domain regarding our climate crisis, a situation no one has ever witnessed firsthand in the history of humanity,” the report says.

The document displays a diverse set of vital signs of the planet and the potential drivers of climate change and climate-related responses first presented in a Ripple & Wolf study in 2020, which declared a climate emergency and attracted more than 15,000 scientist signatories from 160 countries. 

Time is up

In 2023, the scientists witnessed an extraordinary series of climate-related records being broken around the world. The rapid pace of change has surprised scientists and caused concern about the dangers of extreme weather, risky climate feedback loops, and the approach of damaging tipping points sooner than expected.

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This year, exceptional heat waves have swept across the world, leading to record high temperatures.

The oceans have been historically warm, with global and North Atlantic sea surface temperatures both breaking records and unprecedented low levels of sea ice surrounding Antarctica, according to the authors, who further predict that the human civilization is rapidly approaching its collapse – some time at the turn of this century.

In the study, the 12 authors included plenty of data points showing that in 2023, multiple climate records were broken by "enormous margins."

The co-lead author, Christopher Wolf, a postdoctoral scholar at the Oregon State University (OSU), said in a statement, “Without actions that address the root problem of humanity taking more from the Earth than it can safely give, we’re on our way to the potential collapse of natural and socioeconomic systems and a world with unbearable heat and shortages of food and freshwater.” 

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He reviewed the key numbers that need immediate attention from governments and international actors:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies – actions by governments that artificially lower the cost of energy production, raise the price received by producers or lower the price paid by consumers – roughly doubled between 2021 and 2022, from 531 billion US dollars to just over 1 trillion dollars.
  • Already this year wildfires in Canada have pumped more than 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, greater than Canada’s total 2021 greenhouse gas emissions of 0.67 gigatons.
  • In 2023, there have already been 38 days with global average temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Until this year, such days were a rarity, the authors note.
  • The highest average Earth surface temperature ever recorded came this past July, and there’s reason to believe it was the highest surface temperature the planet has seen in the last 100,000 years.

The study came to life thanks to collaborative research by scientists from OSU College of Forestry, the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Associates, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the University of Sydney, Brazil’s State University of Campinas, the University of Exeter, the Nanjing University, the Independent University Bangladesh, the Club of Rome Netherlands, and the University of Cambridge.

The work was sponsored by the CO2 Foundation and Roger Worthington, an attorney and the owner of Worthy Brewing, an American firm.


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