2050: Risk, Security, Collapse

“The true worst-case scenario might be one where we don’t venture out from our safe harbors of knowledge to explore the more treacherous shores of uncertainty.” — Dr. Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

An Australian policy paper warning that society could collapse amid climate change-related strife by 2050 is “plausible” if countries fail to take action, a leading Canadian climate scientist says.

Of course, for many, collapses are already here and ongoing. Since the 1500’s genocide and ecocide have been the proper business of merchants and corporations serving their billionaire masters.

However, this 12 page policy paper paints a scenario in which the international order breaks down after humans fail to band together and address the effects of climate change within the next two decades. Food supplies run low, economies collapse, disease kills millions, natural disasters ravage communities and mass migration strains many nations to the breaking point. Countries stop co-operating, and conflict eventually breaks out, plunging the world into war.

“This scenario provides a glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we know it,” authors David Spratt and Ian Dunlop write.

Their paper is published through the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, an independent think tank based in Australia.


Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach (May 2019)


● Analysis of climate-related security threats depends significantly on understanding the strengths and limitations of climate science projections. Much scientific knowledge produced for climate policy-making is conservative and reticent.

● Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation. A new approach to climate-related security risk-management is thus required, giving particular attention to the high-end and difficult-to-quantify “fat-tail” possibilities.

● This may be most effectively explored by scenario analysis. A 2050 scenario is outlined in which accelerating climate- change impacts pose large negative consequences to humanity which might not be undone for centuries.

● To reduce such risks and to sustain human civilisation, it is essential to build a zero-emissions industrial system very quickly. This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response.


Climate change intersects with pre-existing national security risks to function as a threat multiplier and accelerant to instability, contributing to escalating cycles of humanitarian and socio-political crises, conflict and forced migration.

Climate-change impacts on food and water systems, declining crop yields and rising food prices driven by drought, wildfire and harvest failures have already become catalysts for social breakdown and conflict across the Middle East, the Maghreb and the Sahel, contributing to the European migration crisis.

Understanding and foreseeing such events depends crucially on an appreciation of the real strengths and limitations of climate-science
projections, and the application of risk-management frameworks which differ fundamentally from conventional practice.


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