I'm tapping my way through a manuscript about the future of climate change here in North America.
Yes, polar bears are dying, but it's not a book about the Arctic.
With a confirmed global average of +4 degrees C warming, we now know there will be devastating consequences. The past months have given us only a taste of what's to come...
More droughts, heatwaves and megafires will sere the southwest. There will be twisters, and massive spring flooding across the south and midwest. Cities will relocate. The breadbasket and southeast will become drier than melba toast. Water shortages that now trouble 13 states will shrink America's agricultural production and carrying capacity. Heatwaves will increase until our major cities become unliveable for three months of the year.
Finally, conservative estimates of coastal flooding from rising sea levels have recently been revised. Assisted by the storm surges of north Atlantic hurricanes, from 1 to 1 1/2 meters of seawater will redraw the map of the eastern seaboard where 164 million Americans currently live.
Within the next 40 years, there will be climate migrations right here in America.
We are at a terrible turning point and I am trying to document how slow we are to recognize the danger. It's like Katrina on a national scale. I watch the media carefully for news about these things. Sometimes I see books about these subjects that provide me with fascinating new facts. At the very least they convince me I'm not crazy for looking at humanity's future on our continent with some trepidation.
Here are the best books I've found:
· Wallace Broecker's Fixing Climate
· Sing Chew's Ecological Futures
· Jared Diamond's Collapse
· Gwyne Dyer's Climate Wars
· Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers
· Thomas L. Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded
Antony Gidden's Politics of Climate Change
James Hoggen's Climate Cover Up (forthcoming)
· Jane Jacob's The Coming Dark Age
· Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes From a Catastrophe
· James Kunstler's The Long Emergency
· Mark Lynas' Six Degrees
· Cormac McCarthy's The Road
David McCay's Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air
· George Monbiot's Heat
· Joseph Romm's Hell and High Water
· Joseph Gustave Speth's Red Sky At Morning
Nicholas Stern's The Global Deal
· Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies
· Mike Tidwell's Ravaging Tide
· Andrew Weaver's Keeping Our Cool
· Alan Weisman's The World Without Us
· Chris Wood's Dry Spring
Usually I learn something from any new book, and in this way -piece by tiny piece-- I deepen my understanding of the near future. When I noticed a new book called The Next 100 Years: A Forecast For the 21st Century I imagined I might learn quite a bit. For one thing, I thought its author, George Friedman, might be connected to New York Times' columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, a favorite writer whose excellent book Hot, Flat and Crowded is included above.
That was my first disappointment.
The Next 100 Years is proof that -despite what my agent* says-- there's nothing special about writing a book. Anyone can publish anything and still ask $25.95 for it. The Next 100 Years is a dark fantasy about America's future presented as non-fiction, but since it eschews the annoying inconveniences of research and documented sources, it might just as easily be classed as apocalyptic fiction with Cormac McCarthy's The Road except that Mr. McCarthy's book is beautifully written.
Throughout The Next 100 Years there isn't a single mention of 'climate', 'climate change' or 'global warming'. Nonetheless predictions of wars with many of America's current allies -- Mexico, Turkey, Poland and Japan -- are confidently featured by this latter day Nostradamus from Texas who -- without too much effort -- might have noticed that his home state is currently troubled by several climate change extremities including massive spring floods, increasing desertification, hurricane strikes and greatly reduced freshwater levels.
Well, 'nature abhors a moron' as H. L. Mencken once wrote. I can't think of anything bad enough to say about the Next 100 Years except don't waste your money (or that of your local library) on it. I'm old-fashioned, I guess. I still believe that non-fiction writers have a duty to use whatever rostrum their writing affords to inform readers responsibly. Good writers are required to do a bit of research: so, this one's on me...
If you want to know the real shape of North America's future and of the environment's impact on the domestic security of the United States, download a .pdf document called The Age of Consquences from the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) website.
This free ebook describes three scenarios -- mild, middling, extreme -- that outline the potential impacts of climate change in U.S.
Unfortunately, since we're already reached +4°C of warming, the 'mild' scenario is no longer relevant: consequently you only have to read 'middling' and 'extreme' scenarios. It's a mercifully short document about what we're really facing in the next 100 years. And, like George Friedman's execrable book, the outlook is not good.
Not good at all.
* Chris Bucci; Anne McDermid and Associates.