Public Letter on Addressing Collapse Risk

Over 500 scientists and scholars from 30 countries signed this public letter in 2020, first published Monday 7th December 2020. The full list is available at

The letter is open to further signatures by anyone with a PhD or professional doctorate. Signatories are then invited into a community that supports each other.   

En Francais (in French).  Other translations here

Subject: Only if we discuss collapse might we prepare

As scientists and scholars from around the world, we call on policymakers to engage openly with the risk of disruption and even collapse of our societies. After five years of failing to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Accord, we must now face the consequences. 

While bold and fair efforts to cut emissions and naturally drawdown carbon are essential, researchers in many areas now consider societal collapse to be a credible scenario this century. A range of views exist on the location, extent, timing, permanence and cause of such disruptions; but the way modern societies exploit people and nature is a common concern. 

Only if policymakers begin to discuss this threat of societal collapse might communities and nations begin to prepare and so reduce its likelihood, speed, severity, harm to the most vulnerable, and to nature. 

Some armed services already see collapse as an important scenario, requiring planning. Surveys show many people now anticipate societal collapse. Sadly that is already the experience or memory of many communities in the Global South. However, the topic is not well reported in the media, and mostly absent from civil society and politics. 

When potential collapse is covered by the media, it typically cites people who condemn discussion of the topic. Ill-informed speculations, such as on foreign misinformation campaigns, or impacts on mental health and motivation, will not support serious discussion. Rather, such claims risk betraying the thousands of activists and community leaders whose anticipation of collapse is part of their motivation to push for change on climate, ecology, and social justice. 

People who care about environmental and humanitarian issues should not be discouraged from discussing the risks of societal disruption or collapse. That could risk agendas being driven by people with less commitment to such values.

Some of us believe that a transition to a new form of society may be possible. That will involve bold action to reduce damage to the climate, nature and other people, including preparations for major disruptions to everyday life. We are united in regarding efforts to suppress discussion of collapse as hindering the possibility of that transition. 

We have experienced how emotionally challenging it is to recognise the damage being done, along with the growing threat to our own way of life. We also know the great sense of fellowship that can arise. It is time to invite each other into difficult conversations, so we can reduce our complicity in the harm, and be creative to make the best of a turbulent future. 

To sign in your personal capacity, fill in the information below, click subscribe, and then go to your inbox to confirm your email. If you do not confirm your email by clicking on the link emailed to you, then you will not be registered as a signatory. 

A final list of signatories published will be published in January. All signatories will be emailed relevant links to the coverage and reaction. 

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