Sometimes I like to imagine having different problems to solve. Somehow problems we face right now seem very hard, whereas non-urgent problems, or other people’s problems seem to have obvious solutions.
While musing on this I considered the possibility that we had collectively solved the problem of Global Warming and Climate Change. Even just imagining this lifted my spirits. And so I was able to wonder: what problem should be next? If we can solve that one, surely there is nothing we can’t do?
“Hang on!” I hear you say, “Before you go solving humanity’s next eco-problem, could you just explain how we solved the Global Warming ‘thing’?”. Sure.
Well it took a few years of the usual equivocation. But then in 2019 several events conspired to focus the minds of governments. Firstly there was the 40% reduction in the US grain crop and a similarly bad year in Russia. This was the first summer in which the North Pole was ice-free for months – and this somehow shocked people and changed popular sentiment – even amongst ‘right-wing’ media.
The previous bitter winter in Northern Europe had been followed by a summer heat-wave with temperatures of 45 degrees in Scotland. These twin seasonal extremes had killed thousands of people and left crops and livestock devastated. So when governments met in the blistering heat of the 2020 International Brighton Conference – some how everything came together. Governments competed with each other to show how radical they could be.
Things moved quickly. During the following summer a vast international flotilla created millions of square kilometres of fog-mist in the Arctic Ocean, reflecting the summer heat and tying the circumpolar winds as far north as possible. After two years, the arctic sea ice began to thicken and its summer extent began to grow back. Even the permafrost began to cool again as a the snow-line moved south.
In the developed nations, radical measures were finally accepted. Enforced car-sharing, compulsory insulation of houses, night time switch-offs and widespread tele-working reduced carbon emissions by 30% in just three years. The results could be seen on the Keeling curve. Then the 2043 eruption of Mount Biggo-Wunno dramatically affected global temperatures for the next decade, and despite the devastation, helped moderate the warming in both hemispheres.
Of course this just slowed the rate of increase – it took the rest of the century to turn around the rising CO2 levels, see them stabilise at the previously unthinkably low 512 ppm, and finally fall for the first time in 2092. There were plenty of problems along the way – and plenty of consequences of climate change to cope with.
During the first decades of the century, our understanding of climate, weather and computing all evolved exponentially. Our ability to make informed decisions was transformed with the 2029 implementation of the devolved computing paradigm (DCP). Immediately meteorologists were able to run realistic models that could predict real weather 3 weeks in advance. And climate modellers found that they could finally predict the effects of specific policy actions in way that convinced politicians.
But the modelling revealed what we had already known one hundred years previously. Without anthropogenic interference, the Earth would have been drifting towards a new ice age. Now, having changed our lifestyles and geo-engineered specific solutions, could we really let that happen just because it was a ‘natural’ trend?