Scenarios for the End of the World

Pick your level, from beginner to challenging to hard to impossible—only this is no video game, and the scoreboard is human lives.

Asher Black
9 min readApr 2, 2023
WELCOME, PLAYER. Stay awhile and listen. >>

Level One: Beginner — The Obvious Things To Worry About Right Out of the Gate

While predicting exact time frames or worst-case climate change scenarios is challenging due to the complex and interconnected nature of climate systems and human societies, reputable sources have provided some estimates of potential impacts that are more than foreseeable. Note, wary traveler, this is a volatile environment, and the situation may (will) accelerate or change as new information becomes available. Here are a few potential scenarios and timeframes based on reputable guides like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Global temperature increase: The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (2018) warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the world may reach 1.5°C of warming above pre-industrial levels as early as 2030. Be on the lookout for more extreme weather events, heatwaves, and other climate-related disasters.

Sea level rise: The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (2021) projected that sea level rise may reach 0.6–1.1 meters by 2100 under a high-emission scenario. Watch your step for coastal flooding and erosion, displacement of millions of people, and threats to coastal infrastructure and ecosystems.

Mass migration: The World Bank’s Groundswell report (2018) estimated that by 2050, there may be 140 million climate migrants due to sea-level rise, reduced crop productivity, and water scarcity, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

Food and water scarcity: The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (2014) projected that food production might decline by 2% per decade for the rest of the century due to climate change, leading to increased malnutrition, starvation, and social unrest. Meanwhile, the WHO estimates that half of the global population could be living in water-stressed areas by 2025.

Disease and health impacts: The WHO predicts that climate change could cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress.

Economic consequences: A 2020 report from the World Economic Forum estimated that the world’s top 10 risks in terms of likelihood and impact are all linked to the environment. Climate change could cost the global economy $7.9 trillion by 2050, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Bags of gold now worth bags of copper.

Conflicts and wars: Climate change may exacerbate existing tensions and contribute to conflicts over resources like water and land. The UN’s 2020 report on climate security noted that climate change could act as a “threat multiplier,” increasing the risk of conflict in vulnerable regions. Expect nearly all monsters to go aggro—potential hate.

These scenarios highlight the potential consequences of unmitigated climate change. However, they also serve as a call to action (tutorial level) for governments, businesses, and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate impacts, and build resilience in the face of an uncertain future.

Level Two: Challenging—You’re Gonna Need Both Hands for This One, Biff

There are darker scenarios on this level regarding the impacts of climate change on human societies and ecosystems. It is essential to consider these possibilities to understand the urgency (time based challenge) of addressing climate change and mitigating its effects. Some of these lurking bad boys include:

  1. Runaway climate change: A tipping point in the Earth’s climate system could lead to runaway climate change, causing rapid and irreversible shifts in climate patterns. This could lead to a much less habitable planet, making it difficult for humans and ecosystems to adapt.
  2. Mass extinction events: Climate change, combined with other human activities, could lead to mass extinction events where a large percentage of plant and animal species die off. This would disrupt ecosystems and have severe consequences for human societies that rely on these ecosystems for food, water, and other resources.
  3. Global conflict and war: As resources become scarcer due to climate change, tensions between nations and within societies could escalate, leading to large-scale conflicts and wars over access to resources such as water, arable land, and food.
  4. Collapse of global governance: The cumulative impacts of climate change could lead to the breakdown of global governance and international cooperation. In this scenario, nations might become more focused on their own survival rather than cooperating to address the global climate crisis.
  5. Widespread suffering and social unrest: Climate change could exacerbate existing inequalities, leading to widespread suffering and social unrest. Food and water shortages, displacement, and the collapse of essential services could result in chaos, violence, and anarchy in many regions.
  6. Pandemics and disease outbreaks: Climate change can alter the distribution and behavior of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes, increasing the risk of pandemics and disease outbreaks that could lead to high mortality rates and further strain on already weakened societies.

While the darker scenarios on this level are possible, it is important to focus on solutions and mitigation efforts to reduce the likelihood of such outcomes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting sustainable practices (resource management), investing in renewable energy, and fostering international cooperation are all essential steps.

Tips for Surviving Level Two—Tip #1: The Species Will, But Most of You Won’t—Options:

While the collapse of ecosystems and human societies due to climate change is a grim prospect, it is crucial to explore potential scenarios for human survival and adaptation in such conditions. Here are some possibilities for continued human existence after a large-scale collapse:

  1. Technological solutions: Advancements in technology could help humans adapt to the new conditions, such as indoor or vertical farming, desalination of seawater, and renewable energy sources. These technologies could be essential for providing food, water, and energy in a post-collapse world.
  2. Localized resilience: Some communities might be more resistant to the impacts of climate change due to their geographic location, resource availability, or cultural practices. These communities could serve as examples of sustainable living and potentially help rebuild human societies over time.
  3. Migration and relocation: Humans may need to move to more hospitable regions with fewer climate change impacts, such as higher altitudes or latitudes. These migrations could lead to the formation of new communities and societies that are better adapted to the changed climate.
  4. Global cooperation: Despite the collapse of many societies, there might still be opportunities for international collaboration to tackle climate change and rebuild. Countries could work together to develop and share technologies, resources, and knowledge to help humanity adapt and thrive in a post-collapse world.
  5. Biodiversity conservation: Efforts to preserve and restore ecosystems and biodiversity could be critical in ensuring human survival. This might include protecting endangered species, reforesting areas, and promoting regenerative agriculture to support ecosystem services and food production.
  6. Space colonization: In the long term, some propose the idea of establishing human settlements on other planets, such as Mars, as a way to ensure the survival of the human species. However, this idea is still in the realm of speculation and faces significant technical, financial, and ethical challenges.

It is important to remember that these scenarios are not mutually exclusive and could coexist in various combinations. The key takeaway is that even in the face of severe climate

Level Three: Hard—By Hard, We Mean Theoretically Possible, But You’re Gonna Need More Than a Space Suit

There are even more extreme and speculative scenarios that could arise from the worst impacts of climate change. Few people are gonna make it alive to this level. It’s important to note that these scenarios are far less likely and are based on speculation rather than rigorous scientific projections. However, they can serve as a reminder of the high stakes involved in addressing climate change. Some of these darker scenarios include:

  1. Runaway greenhouse effect: This scenario involves a positive feedback loop that leads to uncontrollable warming, causing the Earth’s atmosphere to become inhospitable for life, similar to Venus. Although the likelihood of this occurring is considered very low, the consequences would be catastrophic for all life on Earth.
  2. Large-scale methane release: Climate change could trigger a massive release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from sources like permafrost and methane hydrates on the ocean floor. This release could significantly amplify global warming and lead to more severe climate impacts, pushing the Earth’s systems beyond any recoverable state.
  3. Near-total collapse of the biosphere: In this extreme scenario, the combined effects of climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and overexploitation of resources could lead to the near-total collapse of the Earth’s biosphere, resulting in the extinction of a vast majority of species, including humans.
  4. Global nuclear war: As climate change exacerbates resource scarcity and geopolitical tensions, there is a possibility that conflicts could escalate to a global nuclear war. The use of nuclear weapons could cause widespread devastation, nuclear winter, and long-lasting radiation effects, threatening the survival of human civilization and many other species.
  5. Permanent loss of habitable land: In this scenario, the cumulative impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, desertification, and extreme weather events, could lead to the permanent loss of a significant portion of the Earth’s habitable land, making it nearly impossible for human societies to sustain themselves.

It’s important to emphasize that these extreme boss-battle scenarios are highly speculative and not based on current scientific consensus. However, they serve as a reminder of the importance of mitigating climate change and taking action (cheat guide:) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable development to minimize the risk of severe consequences.

Level Four: Impossible—Even if You’re Badass. Even in God Mode. Advise Logging, Not Advancing.

Thank you, Kaizo Mario, but our princess is in another castle. The absolute darkest scenarios regarding climate change are highly speculative and go beyond the realm of scientific consensus. They involve admittedly unlikely events or extreme combinations of impacts (wave-based survival) that push the boundaries of human imagination. Some scenarios at this level include:

  1. COMBO—Earth becoming uninhabitable: A combination of runaway climate change, biosphere collapse, and other environmental catastrophes could render the Earth completely uninhabitable for humans and most other life forms. In this scenario, human extinction would be nearly certain, and the planet would require millions of years to recover, if it ever could.
  2. DOMINO—Global ecosystem collapse: In this scenario, the planet’s ecosystems would collapse entirely, leading to a domino effect of extinctions and the breakdown of critical natural processes, such as photosynthesis and nutrient cycling. This would result in a planet that is essentially lifeless, with only a few extremophile organisms capable of surviving in the harshest conditions.
  3. TOTAL FACEPALM—Human-induced mass extinction: The combined impacts of climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and other anthropogenic factors could lead to a mass extinction event rivaling or even surpassing the severity of past extinction events, such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. In this scenario, the loss of biodiversity would be so severe that it would take millions of years for the planet to recover its current level of biological complexity.
  4. ENDLESS NESTED LOOP—Irreversible climate change feedback loops: The activation of multiple climate change feedback loops, such as the release of methane from permafrost and the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, could lead to a self-reinforcing cycle of warming that would be impossible to halt or reverse. This could result in a planet with a drastically different climate, hostile to human life and the majority of current ecosystems.
  5. DEVIL’S CURE—Technological catastrophe: The use of geoengineering techniques in a desperate attempt to mitigate climate change could backfire, causing unintended and potentially irreversible consequences. For example, solar radiation management, which involves injecting aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight, could disrupt global weather patterns and have devastating consequences for ecosystems and agriculture.

While these absolute darkest scenarios are not grounded in current scientific understanding and are highly speculative, they serve as cautionary tales that emphasize the importance of mitigating climate change and taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability. By taking action now, we can help to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and protect the future of our planet.

Well, player, I need to sign off. Needless to say, we’re in survival mode, and the goal here is to avoid permadeath. If I score some points for writing up this walkthrough of level descriptions, I’d appreciate a share, a follow, and a like.

Until then: >>

Thank You for Playing. And See You Next.



Asher Black

Asher Black is a storyteller, musician, & karateka satisfied w. the life he always wanted. Profile not yet rated. Parental discretion. Views do not reflect. Etc