October 13, 2008
Climate Study Makes Dramatic Predictions
Climate change will hit the economy at least as much as the credit crunch, said authors of a new study referring to the possible futures of global warming.
British-based Forum for the Future, a charitable think-tank, and researchers from Hewlett-Packard Labs, said they wanted to stir debate about how to avert the worst effects of global warming by presenting a radical set of predictions.
In the scenarios researchers also wrote of refugees moving to Antarctica by 2030 because of rising temperatures, the Olympics being held only in cyberspace and central Australia being abandoned because it became too dry.
"We still have the chance to alter the future," said Peter Madden, head of the Forum. "This is what the world could be like and some of these options are not very pleasant."
Madden said he wanted to address the majority of studies that look primarily on scientific findings without translating the psychological or social consequences.
"Historians of the future may look back on these as the 'climate change years'," he said. "They will either look back on our generation as heroes or view us with incomprehension and disgust -- as now we look back on those who allowed slavery."
He also admitted the report did not aim to show what is most likely to happen, rather what could be possible.
It gave the following five scenarios:
EFFICIENCY FIRST - Technological innovation will help solve climate change and spur strong growth and consumerism. The Sahara is green and the eastern seaboard of the United States, for instance, is "protected by eco-concrete wall that generate power from waves and tidal surges."
SERVICE TRANSFORMATION - Sky-high prices for emitting carbon dioxide have led to a shift to a service-based economy. People no longer own cars but use bicycles. "Central Australia and Oklahoma have been abandoned due to water shortages. Athletes stay at home in the world's first virtual Olympics, competing against each other in virtual space with billions of spectators."
REDEFINING PROGRESSS - A global depression from 2009-18 forces people into more modest lifestyles and focus on well-being and quality of life. In the United States, people "do 25 hours of work a week and up to 10 hours voluntary work."
ENVIRONMENTAL WAR ECONOMY - The world has failed to act on climate change, world trade has collapsed after oil prices break through $400 a barrel. Electrical appliances get automatically turned off when households exceed energy quotas. Refugees are moving to Antarctica, with the population set to reach 3.5 million people by 2040.
PROTECTIONIST WORLD - Globalization is in retreat after a poorly coordinated response to climate change. Morocco has been asked to join the European Union in exchange for exclusive access to solar energy supplies until 2050.
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