Climate change: a huge problem that’s unlikely to lead to human extinction

Could climate change lead to the end of civilisation?

Across the world, over half of young people worry that, as a result of climate change, humanity is doomed.1 They feel angry, powerless, and — above all — afraid about what the future may hold.2

Climate change matters so much, to so many, not just because of the suffering and injustice it’s already causing, but also because it’s one of the few issues that has obvious potential to affect our world over many future generations. We think safeguarding future generations is a key moral priority, and should be a crucial consideration in prioritising problems on which to work.

If climate change could lead to the end of civilisation, then that would mean future generations might never get to exist – or they could live in a permanently worse world. If so, then preventing it, and adapting to its effects, might be more important than working on almost any other issue.

So – what does the science say?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report is, to our knowledge, the most authoritative and comprehensive source on climate change. The report is clear: climate change will be hugely destructive. We’ll see floods, famines, fires, and droughts — and the world’s poorest people will be affected the most.3

But even when we try to account for unknown unknowns,4 nothing in the IPCC’s report suggests that civilisation will be destroyed.

This isn’t to say society shouldn’t do far more to tackle climate change.

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