In The Year 2500

CHERYL LYON – A recent opinion piece in Global Change Biology has garnered a lot of attention with a compelling and provocative shift of perspective – with pictures – on climate change.

We know that the way we humans live on this Earth is changing Earth’s climate and ecosystems in ways that are potentially dangerous and disruptive. But our perspective and our imagination are usually offered timelines that stop at the convenient round number of the year 2100 at the most. The paper, entitled “Climate change research and action must look beyond 2100”, gives the kaleidoscope of climate scenarios a “pay attention” twist to a much longer and more provocative view. Policy makers and activists take note.

The authors hold that rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere ensure that climate changes will be felt for centuries, well beyond our usual year 2100 current benchmark for projection, and that 2100 is not adequate for gaining a true appreciation of the challenges we will face. We must think beyond that date. Children born today will be alive when it comes; so will their children and their children who will be starting to have their children well into the next century. We must look further than 2100 and exercise greater imagination when planning for climate adaptation and mitigation.

This very readable paper models climate change to 2500 under a set of emission scenarios and quantified associated projections of food crop viability and heat stress. The projections show global climate impacts increasing significantly after 2100 if we do not take rapid mitigation right now. Therefore, it is argued that projections of climate disruptions and their effects on human well-being and associated governance and policy must be framed beyond 2100.

Local governments, environmental and public health authorities, agricultural groups, economic planners, and climate action advocacy organizations would benefit from this longer perspective for local action and policy-making. Current food production and supply chain problems and heat emergencies in cities, flooding and soil loss are highly likely to continue. The Nogojiwanong area will likely be very attractive to people fleeing increasingly uninhabitable landscapes or conflict zones of Earth over the coming decades.

In a unique addition to the written text, the paper includes artist James McKay’s illustrations of current vs future tableaus of changed landscapes and food growing methods. Artistic aids to the imagination are much needed in unprecedented situations like the climate crisis.

Access the full, open source, opinion paper “Climate change research and action must look beyond 2100” at onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Images made available courtesy of https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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