I’ve been thinking about this map a lot for the past week. We’re currently seeing a global heat wave: records temps in California, deaths in Quebec, wildfires above the Arctic Circle in the Nordic countries, the highest temperature ever recorded in Africa, heat records across Asia… I could go on, but I think you get the point.
There are so many questions that arise from this map, but given this is a newsletter about cities, let’s make that the focus.
Look at all those yellow and brown areas, particularly the latter. How many billions of people are in these areas? How many megacities are forming in these areas? Vast swaths of heavily populated areas in India, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, and the Eastern seaboard of North America are all in brown — they’ll be made uninhabitable. And where the displaced people go?
Consider the response to the refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa in recent years by Western countries — border crackdowns, far-right resurgence, xenophobia, Trump, Brexit, etc. And for what? 5-6 million refugees in Europe, and a global displaced population of ~65 million? That’s a huge number, and we should be doing more, but it’s nothing compared to the billions who are set to be displaced by climate change. Will the West’s reaction change when they’re among the displaced? Consider me skeptical. We’re very tied to the imaginary lines we’ve drawn across the planet’s surface and it seems easy to stir us into a frenzy about (brown) “foreigners” coming from abroad.
And I know what some people will say: “But Paris, that map is predicting what the world might look like with 4°C of warming. It won’t come to that.” I hope they’re right, but at this point, I think we need to be preparing for the absolute worst.
Scientists say that if all countries hit their voluntary targets in the Paris Agreement, we’ll still be on track for 2.7°C of warming, and I’m not at all convinced the targets will be met given the setbacks in the US, Canadian PM Trudeau’s lies about being a climate leader, Australia’s commitment to coal, the continued resistance by some European countries, and let’s not forget India and other growing countries in the Global South and East with large populations that are rightfully trying to improve living standards. China’s renewable investments provide some hope, but their emissions are still massive.
I love focusing on improvements to transportation and housing, but we also need to zoom out to make sure those efforts aren’t useless in the long term. We’re not doing nearly enough to transition away from fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, nor are we making the necessary preparations for the warming that’s already baked in. We’ve already warmed the planet by 1°C.
If I wasn’t staying in a hostel, I’d probably go cry now. I find this horribly depressing. I’m sorry if I’ve ruined your day. Feel free to reply if you have thoughts.