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I have seen the future

A forest fire rages on a cool day in 2050

For two weeks in Copenhagen, I have been listening to world leaders and environment ministers on how they intend to tackle climate change. I have also heard from leading climate scientists and environmental thinkers, for the first time in my life, on the actual extent of the threat we face.

Thankfully, this did not deny me the time to scout for Danish talent. Because the science, surprisingly, is eminently simple, and the governments of the world are astonishingly short on solutions. So taking all of this into account, I now present my first seven-decade forecast. I have seen the future.

2010

We are at the dawn of a new decade, and with world governments determined to fight climate change only within the boundaries defined by corporate and political self-interest, carbon emissions will continue to accelerate. They will not peak. Thus, expect to see the continual bleaching of coral reefs, accelerated glacial melts and further increases in frequency and severity of significant weather events. So don’t buy a house in Tewkesbury, and for fuck’s sake, don’t plan a skiing trip in the Alps. You’ll be wasting your time.

2020

It’s getting hot, very hot. And unfortunately, I’m not just talking about that crumpet in the Danish royal family. By now world average temperatures have jumped to 1.5 degrees, and wildfires are destroying large swathes of California and Australia. Hollywood relocates to Seattle, where ironically, they make a hit new animated film, Ice Age 6: Revenge of the Mammoths. Emissions belatedly peak, six years later than scientists warned they should back in 2009.

2030

As the IPCC warned in 2007, with temperatures now rapidly heading toward the two-degree threshold, approximately 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction. Among them is the polar bear, unable to cope with the loss of its habitat during the ice-free Arctic summers. In Africa, water shortages have killed 250 million people, as drought spreads.

2040

The two-degree threshold is passed, and the Earth’s ecosystems are no longer able to cope. Carbon sinks collapse, and runaway climate change kicks in. Sea levels rise by over two metres with the loss of most of the Greenland ice shelf and significant parts of Antarctica. No one really minds though when Norfolk gets swamped by coastal flooding and Norwich City have to fold. Nevermind, eh?

2050

Just as NGOs like Oxfam warned four decades earlier, 600 million more people are now facing starvation as agriculture collapses across Africa and the Asian sub-continent. The Amazon wildfires are uncontrollable, and four billion are thirsty, as worldwide glacial melt literally evaporates. On the upside, the new series of X Factor is cancelled so the TV studios can be used to house climate refugees from Bangladesh, which has now been reclaimed by the Indian Ocean.

2060

A mass extinction event is well underway as temperatures rise sharply by four degrees. The salvation for humans is Antarctica, or, as it is now known, the United Nations of Antarctica. But billions have already died. In Scotland, meanwhile, the grape-growing business flourishes and the women’s beach volleyball team are world champions. Tartan bikinis have never looked so good.

2070

City of London is abandoned, but my ninth-floor apartment is fine and I take up fishing from my balcony to survive. The rest of you are fucked, and the politicians who met at Copenhagen in 2009 are remembered somewhat unfavourably for the crimes against the planet they enacted 61 years earlier.

So the lyric goes: “They had all the evidence they needed, but the warnings were not heeded. Now we raise their heads on steaks, after they were all decapitated.”




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