The current (Sept. 23) issue of Time magazine is a pretty good compilation of what the world can expect from climate change in the future. But the issue takes the position of looking back from the year 2050 to the action the world’s nations took to stabilize things.
So it is not all doom and gloom, thankfully.
In a nutshell, we’re putting too much carbon in the air. That creates a cycle of putting more carbon in the air that can cause more carbon yet. One simple example is that as Alaska’s permafrost melts from warmer temperatures, it releases more carbon into the air and that makes the air warmer yet.
There are some interesting things in the article. Greenland is largely ice and glaciers but they are melting. If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt it would raise sea levels 6 meters or about 20 feet. This would put most of Florida and much of the lowlands along the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States under water.
Worse yet would be if Antarctica were to melt. That would raise sea levels some 70 meters or well over 200 feet.
Both are melting now at faster rates than ever.
A rising sea would create a huge migration of people from shoreline areas, even miles from shore land areas, inland. It would also take millions of acres of productive farmland out of production. That’s the doom and gloom part.
There are a lot of solutions and many people are working on them. What does 2050 look like from the perspective of the Time scenario?
Our use of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil would have dramatically dropped to a tiny fraction of current use. Electricity replaced those fuels, much of it generated by wind and solar panels with some of it stored for overnight needs by battery systems.
Business growth in the 2020s was from businesses that converted homes and businesses into more energy efficient facilities.
We planted more trees, since trees absorb carbon. It was one of the easiest and cheapest ways to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. Agriculture changed, we’d now have less livestock.
We will all be driving electric cars. All major car companies worked on them.
These items above are considered the “low hanging fruit,” things easily changed.
If this had all been done in the 1990s, according to Bill McGibbon, who created the scenario, we would have done enough to stabilize things. But since we are 30 years down the road we need to figure out how to pull some of the carbon already in the atmosphere out of it, just to lower the rate temperature is rising.
All this this does not end climate change issues, they will just come at a slower rate and be easier to manage.
McGibbon takes the optimistic approach from his 2050 perspective, “increasingly we celebrate our ability to bend without breaking, to adapt as gracefully as possible to a natural world whose temper we have come to respect.”
• • •
John Stone is the former mayor of Glenwood and former publisher of the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.