A perspective published by an international team of researchers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that the consequences of warming the planet beyond 3 degrees Celsius have been “dangerously underexplored” with few quantitative estimates of worldwide societal collapse or even eventual human extinction. “We know least about the scenarios that matter most,” lead author Dr. Luke Kemp told the Guardian.

The researchers warn that unchecked global warming could trigger other catastrophes like war or pandemics, and worsen existing vulnerabilities like poverty, crop failure and lack of water. The research suggests countries may fight over geoengineering plans or the right to emit carbon as up to two billion people deal with extreme temperatures in some of the most densely populated and politically fraught areas. The researchers call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to dedicate a future report to catastrophic climate change to incentivize future research and inform policymakers and the public. (AP, The Guardian, Inside Climate News, BBC, Phys.org)