Five possible climate futures

The UN’s latest report on the state of the climate offers a stark warning that humanity’s future could be filled with apocalyptic natural disasters. But that future isn’t set in stone. Depending on global economic trends, technological progress, geopolitical developments, and most important, how aggressively we act to reduce carbon emissions, the world at the end of the 21st century could turn out to be radically different. Or not.

The spectrum of possible futures that await us underpin the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, whose first chapter on the physical science of climate change was released last week. The new report features five climate narratives that differ in terms of the level of projected warming and society’s ability to adapt to the changes ahead. Each narrative pairs a different socioeconomic development scenario with a different carbon emissions pathway, resulting in a Choose Your Own Adventure-style series of endings to the story of 21st-century climate change.

In some of those endings, humanity rises to the climate challenge while making concurrent efforts to reduce poverty and improve quality of life for everyone. The world is hotter and the weather is more dangerous, but the worst climate impacts are averted and societies are able to adapt.

In others, global cooperation is fractured by nationalism, increases in poverty, soaring emissions, and unimaginably hot weather.

You can start by reading this article…if you want to take part in building the changes that are needed. I hope you will.

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