The Agency, widely known for its cautious approach to forecasting energy use, says the numbers now speak for themselves.
What are they saying?
So far, the figures say it’s time to end developed countries’ dependence on fossil fuels, and fast – we’ve got five years before the new climate reality gets locked into place. Temperatures are trending badly in the wrong direction, according to Faith Birol, chief economist of the IEA.
The choice is ours
Here in the US, we either give up our current standard of living, which is utterly fossil-fuel energy dependent, or “the world is perfectly on track for a six-degree Celsius increase in temperature” by the year 2100.
That’s 11 degrees Fahrenheit.
Eleven degrees would be the average temperature increase; some places would warm far more than that (the Arctic), while others might experience little, if any, change (the equator).
Since, at this point, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise despite global economic turmoil, and the big polluters refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue at climate change negotiations, the time spent imagining what the world could be like by 2100 is not a waste. Indeed, it could well be looked upon as a kind of preparation.
As we discuss The New Climate Reality, think about this:
How do we best prepare today’s children for a world that does not yet exist? What is there about our present way of living that they must hang onto at all costs? What must they learn to let go of, no matter the outcome?
In the year 2100
By the year 2100, significant numbers of people will have moved underground. Some have dug directly down into the ground, others have burrowed into the side of a hill. Cave dwelling has become popular, as well. Underground living makes enormous sense, because it provides real relief from the heat.
Winter has now become the growing season in many parts of the world, as former suburbanites have learned to rely on themselves for more and more of the calories they require. Most people are smaller and thinner than they were a century ago, and there are far fewer people.
Influenza was rampant for a time, followed by dengue fever, and then malaria.
Natural disasters have taken a terrible toll. Drinkable water has become much harder to find, especially since sea water has tainted rivers and lakes. Ponds and cisterns that hold rainwater are highly valued.
As the oceans have risen, islands and island nations have been swamped. So have the coastlines of every continent on earth. As a result, people have been driven inward, some choosing to stay as close to the new coast as they reasonably can. Others – fearful of continual migration – head further inland, away from the coast.
The oceans no longer provide much food, except in the occasional cool spot. These have generally been overfished. People still swim and surf in wet suits, though the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advises against it.
Give me that old time…whatever
It’s much harder to get the word out these days, though most municipalities are still linked to the Internet. This is a mixed blessing, since neither the Internet, nor the computers connected to it, always work. Computer technicians are few and far between.
There are some local TV and radio stations; the signal is usually pretty weak, and most receivers have long since expired. Cable and satellite TV connections didn’t survive. While teenage boys have learned to fix antenna TV’s by cannibalizing old models reclaimed from attics, high winds are a constant problem.
Because basic possessions – beds, chairs, tables – were made to a much higher standard during the mid-20th century, they are considered very desirable. The older, the better. The same is true of clothing and cookware, though books did not convert to manufacture from non-acidic papers until the latter part of that century.
Nearly everyone gardens or farms, a very difficult proposition because of the changed weather. Community markets are common. Sharing of possessions amongst neighbors – where neighborhoods still exist – is assumed.
A poem lovely as a tree
The landscape has changed enormously.
Trees have gradually moved north, along with the elevated temperatures. “Weed” trees – trees that can stand the heat, such as mimosa and catalpa, have become highly valued for the shade they offer.
Trees everywhere are coddled with careful fertilizing, and as much grey water as can be spared. Fruit and nut trees are oftentimes used, in sapling form, in place of currency, as is their produce. Wooden open air structures, anchored in cement, protect young trees as much as possible, both with the shade they provide when covered with old sheets, and the stability they offer when a tree is tied to them.
The ferocious winds that are now all too common are just one of the hurdles trees must overcome in order to reach their full height.
Torrential rainstorms can loosen the roots, making the trees ready for upending by the next windstorm, something the wooden anchors cannot always prevent. In drought-stricken areas, wildfires have burned up everything above ground. Even charred remains have mostly disappeared.
Children, when they attend school at all, may attend neighborhood schools, taught by parents in the evening. Work of all kinds is performed in the evening, or at night. Very few corporations exist anymore, though utilities still do in some locales.
Doctors work from home, and make house calls when a) the roads are passable, and b) the phones work. Hospitals still serve people who can get to them. Ambulances and fire trucks are the only conventionally-fueled vehicles allowed on the roads, though doctors are permitted to drive electric cars, and alternatively-fueled trucks and buses occasionally venture out.
Because cleared roads are of such importance, most people are willing to help keep their neighborhood roads usable.
All dressed up and no place to go
Expressways are another matter; the money to maintain them simply did not exist. They are variously used as roads, by horse riders and bikers; campgrounds, by people traveling long distances (this could mean as little as 10 miles); makeshift villages, some complete with gardens, libraries, and jerry-rigged shelters for bad weather; and the occasional soccer field.
Some people live nomadic lives; like the homeless, they cannot or will not come in out of the rain. (Above-ground housing, though often derelict, is plentiful.)
I don’t suppose the psychological toll can be imagined. Those who have accepted the monumental changes forced upon them as challenges, to be confronted and surmounted, have fared best.
As the older, pampered generations have made way for their sometimes bitter offspring, survival skills have sharpened. Perpetual physical demands, coupled with the enormous burden of anxiety, have reduced life expectancy to around 50 years. No one really knows when climate change will peak, but it seems likely that the worst is yet to come.
Ready or not
Could the future that awaits us resemble what I’ve just described?
Because people’s lives vary a good deal right now, chances are that variability will continue. The point is, this imagined future will differ dramatically from the lives we live today. Weather, and ways of contending with the weather, will dominate our thoughts, conversations, and work. Illness and accidental injury will come to be dreaded as much as they once were.
There will be very little down time, and what little there is will be prized.
Give those questions at the beginning of this article some thought, then see where they lead you. Surely we can help our children prepare for their perilous future, at the very least.
More than that, it would appear, society is too selfish to do.
–Vicki Lipski, Transition Vocie