By 2030 China will be suffering from water shortages and the USA from increasingly severe hurricane damage. Every government will have recognised the direction and pace of change. Corporate lobbyists who currently deny the reality of anthropogenic change will have shifted to demanding government help in adapting to that change (whilst denying any meaningful responsibility). It will also be clear that even geo-engineering schemes cannot reverse the trend.
Climate change will already have reduced the area under cultivation and the availability of water for irrigation causing starvation in areas, such as those south of the Sahara, where governments are already weak. The reduction in global food production will make it impossible to provide enough food aid leading to major population movements and wars.
Governments will recognise that the Earth cannot support its current population and that existing human institutions cannot survive the huge population movements that these changes will provoke. (In Collapse Jared Diamond has described a variety of precedents for social collapse due to overuse of natural resources.)
Once the inevitability of this collapse becomes clear governments will shift their focus from mitigation to survival. The worst governments will seek their own survival – the best that of as many of their population as they think feasible. Most countries will adopt a ‘war footing’. Specific policy responses will vary according to geography and political feasibility but will typically include:
- Bans on immigration – enforced by tighter borders and internal controls
- Central direction of food production – including use of genetically-modified crops and lower animal welfare standards.
- Forced relocation of people from threatened areas – sometimes to farmlands where human labour will replace diesel engines.
Even so, most governments will realise that these measures can provide only temporary relief. With large parts of many countries becoming permanently uninhabitable and new farmlands becoming available in the under-populated north the only long-term solution will be a wholesale northward relocation of people and industrial facilities coupled with a reduction in total numbers.
The inevitable strategy will be to identify the territories remote from the equator where the prospects are best and then limit and direct migration into these refuges. The rest of the Earth will be progressively abandoned together with a large part of its population. International institutions will be redirected or created in order to manage the transfer and, more critically, the abandonment and starvation of many millions of people.
This process will play out over many decades and its reality will be generally denied at first.
By 2050 the temperature rise will have exceeded two degrees and major positive feedback effects will be visible. Major floods and severe hurricanes will be much more common making and major habitat changes have already occurred, eg in the Sahara and Amazon basin, leading to a marked reduction in the Earth’s carrying capacity. An increase of at least four degrees will now be certain.
The refuges will take on a life of their own. Life in these refuges will be hard but life outside them will become literally impossible; most of those outside them will die. These deaths will be spread over many decades and will mainly be from starvation, though natural disasters and warfare will contribute.
Resistance to the new world order will be severe but the multinational authorities will take large-scale military action to maintain the borders of the refuges. This scenario assumes that the multinational authorities succeed in maintaining law and order and an industrial base but this will be at the price of human rights and ordinary human compassion. The need for vigorous military action against those outside the refuges and direction of labour within them will lead to severe rationing of almost everything and a police state covering all the refuges; in effect a Police World.
If the authorities are unable to maintain law and order and an industrial base we will get scenario 4.