Skip to main content

KPBS Radio is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in temporary signal outages.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Tokyo Olympics

Scripps Study: There’s A Chance Climate Change Can Wipe Out Humans By 2050

Credit: Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Above: "Ram" Ramanathan meets Pope Francis during a Vatican meeting on climate change, May 2014.

Scripps Study: There's A Chance Climate Change Can Wipe Out Humans By 2050


Veerabhadran "Ram" Ramanathan, professor of atmospheric and climate sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Climate scientists have worked for years to calculate how a warmer atmosphere might impact human life on Earth.

Now scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have published new calculations that find a small potential for global warming of such significance, it could wipe out life on Earth.

The paper, published Thursday says, there is a one in 20 chance of catastrophic change by 2050, which would mean most people would have problems adapting to the change in climate. There is a smaller chance of an existential change, meaning it would wipe out humanity.

“When we say 5 percent-probability high-impact event, people may dismiss it as small but it is equivalent to a one-in-20 chance the plane you are about to board will crash,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, lead study author and a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps said in a press release. “We would never get on that plane with a one-in-20 chance of it coming down but we are willing to send our children and grandchildren on that plane.”

RELATED: How A San Diego Scientist Helped Shape The Pope’s Climate Change Plans

The publication coincides with the start of Climate Week NYC which begins Monday in New York. Ramanathan and colleagues will outline the “three-lever” mitigation strategy of emissions control and carbon sequestration on Monday at the United Nations.

On Friday's Midday Edition Ramanathan will discuss his findings.

Editor's note: This story previously misidentified the study data indicating the likelihood that climate change would wipe out life on earth.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.