The world in 2050

2050: what difference will emissions targets make?

There’s a very thought-provoking article in the current The Big Issue magazine, the COP26 Special Edition #1485. In ‘2050 A day in the Life’, the author Sarah Wilson postulates best-case and worst-case scenarios for life in 2050.

Having said that, the first-presented best case (low warming) scenario has an air very much of many people’s current worst-case one. Take a paragraph such as:

“Pulling back the curtains, you’re relieved to see that the two straight weeks of torrential rain has finally ceased, with the sun now straining through a thin grey cloud. The radio news bulletin says last week’s flooding almost breached barriers in York and parts of London. You think of Susan, who came to the co-living complex a decade ago after her home in Fairborne, Wales, was reclaimed by the sea. You feel lucky to have chosen to live here. Most of your housemates have stories like this – hurricanes, wildfires, floods and typhoons forcing them from their homes.”

It’s a world in which the planet is 1.3C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures: a world of co-living, a four-day working week, everything recycled (“the shirt you pull over your head is made from recycled orange peel”), car sharing, cycling, and urban forests.

Now for the high warming scenario, with the planet 2.4C warmer than pre-industrial times: a time of high pollution, reated sickness, fires, floods and hurricanes – winters of extreme rainfall, summers of extreme heat – and massive food shortages:

“It’s now hard to obtain certain fruits and vegetables – like bananas – once common in the UK. Fish stocks have been depleted to the brink of extinction and meat is often prohibitively expensive, though global instability means prices fluctuate too often to keep track.

“Vast swathes of once habitable, arable land across Africa, South America and Australasia are agricultural deserts, with more regions edging closer to the brink every day. As a result, supermarket shelves are regularly bare, though local community gardens – founded years ago in the spirit of self-sufficiency – try to help where they can.”

A dystoponian view? Hardly. These are both views based on information supplied by COP26 sponsors, UK Research and Innovation, and several highly involved professors. Yet none of this seems to take into account the geopolitics of the future and where today it seems to be heading. The situation could plausible be very much worse!

For the complete article:

Picture credit: James McKay/The Big Issue