A forward-looking approach to climate change and the risk of societal collapse

Thumbnail Image
Steel, Daniel
Phillips, Charly
Giang, Amanda
Mintz-Woo, Kian
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
This article proposes a forward-looking approach to studying societal collapse risks related to climate change. Such an approach should indicate how to study emerging collapse risks and suggest strategies for adapting to them. Our approach is based on three postulates that facilitate a forward-looking approach: (1) collapse, if it occurred, would be a lengthy process rather than an abrupt event; (2) significant collapse risks already exist in some places; and (3) diminishing returns on adaptation to intensifying climate impacts are a key driver of collapse risks. The first two postulates suggests that collapse risks can be studied in process, while the third points to strategies for adaptation pathways that avoid unsustainable diminishing returns. Applying diminishing returns to climate change adaptation, rather than sociopolitical complexity or resource extraction, is also a novel theoretical contribution to collapse literature.
Adaptation , Climate change , Climate ethics , Complex systems , Insurance , Societal collapse
Steel, D., Phillips, C., Giang, A. and Mintz-Woo, K. (2024) ‘A forward-looking approach to climate change and the risk of societal collapse’, Futures, 158, 103361 (11 pp). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2024.103361
Link to publisher’s version