Right now, most scientists predict that 2030 is close to the point of no return, where by then the damage to our polar ice caps and glaciers will be irreversible. The amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and the more damaging methane) are at the highest parts per million in recorded history – though we know Earth had more carbon in earlier stages of development. For an excellent explanation of the effects of greenhouse gasses, here is a paraphrased example from Cosmos. Imagine on a scale of 1-6, the lower number being no greenhouse gases, the planet would be an ice world. At the highest number, Earth would resemble Venus. Either case, life as we know it would not flourish on the world we call home. Right now, Earth was about a 3 on this scale, but we are slowly increasing upwards, a slight increase is probably manageable, but turn the notch up to a 4, 4.5, or 5, who knows dire the effects will really be.
Currently, there is a good framework offered by the Paris Climate Agreement in cutting back greenhouse gas emissions and generating energy from renewable sources. Under the leadership of one of the most uninformed and curiosity-challenged executives, the United States withdrew from the agreement because it is allegedly hurting America. The argument it is hurting America is bullshit, because climate change will hurt America, it will destabilize other parts of the globe, which will in turn threaten American interests and strain current humanitarian aid, and possibly draw us into more armed conflicts. The point of this writing though isn’t to argue how misguided withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement is, it is to ask the question: What if we are too late in in acting to mitigate the direst effects of climate change?
If we are too late, it doesn’t mean we should cease efforts to further mitigate climate change. If the sea level rises only ten feet, it is better than twenty feet. If sea levels dramatically rise, the coastlines of all the continents will be altered, some greater than others. Asia will suffer the worse, with tens of millions in low-lying areas, especially in Bangladesh. More islands, some have already disappeared, will be claimed by the sea. There is no telling how many humans may lose their lives – and what kind of economic impact it will have on their nations and the world. Highly populated areas tend to have a higher means of production, and the loss of these areas would be devastating. A lot of clothes Americans wear are manufactured in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Taiwan, which would be greatly devastated by rising sea levels.
Millions may die and tens of millions being relocated, especially in a short timeframe, would be devastating to areas not directly impacted by rising sea levels. The infrastructure like accommodations, food, drinking water, electricity demands, healthcare, etc. are something that takes a lot of planning to pull off successfully, and on a short notice there will be dire consequences. The mass relocation of people, without proper planning, will cause further strain on systems which are already under strain, and potentially a catastrophe of epic proportions. There is no guarantee that even a disaster of this scale, caused by climate change, will make the numerous deniers change their thinking or ways. Change is not easy but in terms of grappling with climate change, it will be necessary.
But what if nothing is done, and we cross the threshold, the point of no return. What will need to be done to save our species? What changes will we have to make to ensure Earth remains the primary home of the human species? What about animals, insects, etc.?
This is something I’ve thought a lot about, because I wrote close to fifty pages of a backstory exploring the world which led up to my novel’s premise 200 years in the future. In Within the Grasp of Ordinary (the book), the events of the backstory are referenced several times to its main character, David Ross, and the actions he took as In the Night They Came. It is best to describe the events as:
The many nations of the world have strived to meet their greenhouse gas reductions goals, reduction in pollutants, and renewable energy targets, the polar ice caps, and Greenland ice sheet continue to melt, and sea levels rise. Businessman David Ross, a billionaire (really a secret trillionaire), along with a group of like-minded partners have come up with a plan to save the human species from itself. In remote facilities they begin fabrications of humanities new homes, and the implementation of the world’s biggest migration project. After working their way into the halls of power in the world’s most industrious and mighty nations, David Ross and his group launch the world-wide coup.
Slowly reports begin to air on major television news of the murders of prominent climate change deniers. Then an entire broadcast is dedicated to the construction of massive new structures, reaching a mile or higher into the air, called “Sky Cities”. Most of the parts of these structures have been pre-fabricated and then are erected within three months, and have areas dedicated to businesses, schools, hospitals, homes, gardens, etc. These structures, on top of being durable, are constructed with material which acts like a solar panel and has wind turbines. At first, people voluntarily move into these new Sky Cities which are constructed in metropolitan areas.
Soon though, people from smaller cities, towns, and villages are forcibly relocated into the expanding number of skyscrapers. A second revolution begins, as the smaller population areas are relocated, the old places of human habitation are demolished. In some cases, Mother Nature is allowed to reclaim the land. In other cases, the massive hydroponic farms are created to feed the population with fresh produce. In labs, genetically-modified animal fats have been used to create “meat” which tastes, smells, and cooks like meat from an animal. Our dependence on massive number of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc., which only help exacerbate our greenhouse gases problems (mostly by methane emissions), is eliminated.
The third step in David Ross’s plan is the final relocation of the world’s big cities. Over a twenty-year period, billions of people are relocated from millions of villages, towns, cities, into 200 metropolitans consisting entirely of Sky Cities. There is space between each structure, the ground level serving as areas for recreation, open space, etc. The need for cars has been eliminated with public transportation available from structure to structure and from one metropolitan area to the next. A drastic change in the way humanity lives has occurred, and it wouldn’t be our first. Initially we were all hunter-gathers, slowly coalescing into villages with the development of agriculture. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we have formed denser and highly populated cities, most of the world’s population now lives in areas urban areas. David Ross’s vision is fiction but one which while science fiction, may someday become science fact.
The plan I imagined is fictional and I am aware of the very high cost it asks of people, uprooting their lives, often at gun point. Several characters in the story, Within the Grasp of Ordinary, and the in the works sequel, reference the enormous costs and tragic consequences. In this fictional universe, the defenders of Ross’s actions argue the end (humanity saving itself from climate change) justifies the means (brutal relocation, planetary exiles, etc.). In the real world, the result rarely justifies the means and I think we need to act now to prevent the worst possibilities of climate change. The Green New Deal, and Paris Climate Accord may not be enough, but it is better to aim for the stars than not to even try at all.