The future could be quite bleak if we fail to take necessary action against global climate change now.
According to the authors of a striking new book, “The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis,” if we do not take the steps we should right now, this is what waking up to your typical morning in 2050 is likely to look like.
The air is polluted, making you cough. You have to check the air quality before even opening a window. When you do go outside, your eyes water, and you have to wear a mask — on bad days, a high-tech mask, that is if you can afford it.
Depending on where you live, the temperature can be as hot as 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a month each year. In public restrooms, you have to pay to use water.
And there’s a mental toll to living in a world that feels like a dangerous obstacle course. People feel bottomless despair and resent previous generations for their lack of action.
This worst-case scenario of failing to act on climate change was penned by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. Climate scientists, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, are two key architects of the Paris climate agreement. So, they are well-qualified to have painted such an extreme future if we do not mitigate the problems of greenhouse gases.
Yet, some scientists do not agree with their dire prediction.
For instance, some elements could be more likely than others, says Peter Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
“Air pollution and emissions that cause climate change go hand in hand, so less action on climate change will mean poorer air quality,” says Smith. “Whether it gets as bad as people having to wear masks by 2050 is debatable, [and] it should be possible to provide clean water without climate action.”
Still, others seem to agree with the author’s not-so-bright glimpse of the climate future.
Such a situation “isn’t outside the realm of a possibility in a worst-case scenario where we refuse, as a civilization, to take meaningful action on climate,” says Michael E. Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center and author of “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.”
“Do I think that’s likely? No — I think we already see positive movement,” he says. But “there is much more that needs to be done.”
Indeed, to avoid this future, the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by half every decade, starting now, according to Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, whose Global Optimism organization partnered with Amazon to launch The Climate Pledge.
“So, a 50% reduction by 2030, another 50% by 2040, another 50% by 2050,” Rivett-Carnac says.
If that happens, the world in 2050 will be vastly different – certainly quite different than the near-apocalyptic vision painted by Figueres and Rivett-Carnac. But, as in all things related to the potentially damaging impacts of climate change, tomorrow’s outcome depends very much on today’s actions.