Can global warming wipe us out if we are not careful?



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    Potentially, yes, though total human extinction from global warming alone would probably take a very long time and an extraordinary amount of collective stupidity. Most of the studies of effects of global warming focus on illustrating the gradual–rise in sea levels over a projected time, rise in temperatures, increases in violent weather patterns, etc. Very few of these studies extend the analyses to what would happen if we chose to do absolutely nothing about climate change indefinitely. Warmer temperatures will certainly affect the agricultural balance of the planet, and it may become more difficult for humanity to feed its 9 billion people (and counting), at least in the same way as before, but in that situation we can assume that something would change and there would be at least some adaptation to changed conditions that would stave off total disaster. At some point–if enough Pacific islands vanish under rising seas, if enough catastrophic hurricanes or blizzards have devastated the world infrastructure–common sense tells us that the will would exist to take some collective action to mitigate or reverse the effects of global warming. That being said, some researchers believe that human civilization is more fragile than it looks, an a large-scale ecological disaster, particularly one that results in loss of food stores or safe drinking water, could kill significant amounts of the world’s population in a fairly short time. The situation is complicated by the supposition (and it can’t be any more than supposition) that a catastrophe on this scale could ignite mass chaos among the survivors, possibly resulting in the inadvertent acceleration of the extinction by human means (such as a nuclear war). Could global warming do that, alone? Personally I don’t think so, but that does not mean either that global warming isn’t an imminent threat that must be dealt with, or that there isn’t some nightmare scenario in which global warming could be the trigger of a grim chain of events that might somehow leave the Earth barren of human life. We’re necessarily getting into science fiction scenarios, but no possibility can be definitely excluded.

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