Climate Change: A Risk Assessment

David King, Daniel Schrag, Zhou Dadi, Qi Ye, Arunabha Ghosh
Center for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge
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We know that climate change is a problem – but how big a problem is it? We have to answer this question before we can make a good decision about how much effort to put into dealing with it.

This report argues that the risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security, financial stability, or public health. That means we should concentrate especially on understanding what is the worst that could happen, and how likely that might be.

The report presents a climate change risk assessment that aims to be holistic, and to be useful to anyone who is interested in understanding the overall scale of the problem. It considers:

  • What we are doing to the climate: the future trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions;
  • How the climate may change, and what that could do to us – the ‘direct risks’ arising from the climate’s response to emissions;
  • What, in the context of a changing climate, we might do to each other – the ‘systemic risks’ arising from the interaction of climate change with systems of trade, governance and security;
  • How to value the risks; and
  • How to reduce the risks – the elements of a proportionate response.

Center for Science and Policy
University of Cambridge