Climate scientists released a scary report this week saying that global warming is likely to be both ‘stronger than expected and arrive earlier than expected’. Since 2000 large spikes in releases of the gas have seen the amount in the atmosphere grow much faster than expected when the Kyoto treaty was drawn up in 1990. The principle reasons for this increase include the growing economy, China’s increased use of coal and most worryingly, a decrease in the amount of absorption by the world’s natural ‘sinks’.
The UK and New Zealand have both had news stories this week with ministers seeking to go back on ‘unrealistic’ Carbon emission cuts. The problem for all these countries is as the world economy is in such a delicate balance right now (and always, you could argue), to be the first one to start making the drastic changes neccessary means a massive hit to your economy and job market. 12 States including California and New York are sueing the US government for failing to do enough about the problem. All across the news, there are gloomy tales of doom if we don’t change but very little positives highlighted of changing to a less energy intensive future.
SF Writers have a huge part to play in all this. I’m not saying we should all run off and become Mundane. However, science fiction has a capacity to inspire unlike any other genre – just look at the Space Race to see the dreams of the genre in action in the real world. At the moment people understand global warming is a problem. They just don’t have an image in their head of what can replace the current state of affairs. Most of the books that deal with climate change are overwhelmingly apocalyptic, offering no respite and little hope. If we as SF writers can paint a picture of a future where we have adapted to the problems globalisation has caused us without the world ending or life becoming depressingly morbid, we can achieve something that few people are able to do. We can stop scaring people into change and start inspiring them.
3 thoughts on “CO2 rising 25% faster than previously thought – a SF Call to Arms”
I’m right there with you. In fact, I’m write there, too… I am working on a trilogy that takes place two decades from now, when global warming and peak oil have caused most societies to collapse. Now, I realize you’re calling for upbeat stories that inspire change, and the overall theme of the books is just that, but the world I depict is still in the egg-breaking, pre-omelet stage of the transition.
What I find to be critical to the success of the human race in grappling with this immutable environmental changes is how we adapt our societal attitudes to fit our circumstances. America has demonstrated, to an extreme, that humans can adapt unhealthily to a circumstance of affluence. Yet healthy adaptation can be accomplished; the question how much blood will be spilled to achieve it.
The sad fact is that global warming and peak oil will reduce everyone’s available resources, and therefore we’ll see a lot of conflict over what remains (and this, to my writer’s brain, is fodder for epic storytelling). Yet within each conflict is a conflict about the nature of the conflict itself — should we be fighting? Is there a way to provide for the waning resources that doesn’t involve getting shot at? At what point have we reached diminishing returns? In Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, he discusses many societies who experience such a downturn and eventually abandon a region.
Ultimately, I think SF has the chance to show the transformative nature of this crisis, where we don’t restore the status quo but rather revise what the status quo can be within the new parameters that face us.
I think the world absolutely needs transformative and inspiring visions of sustainable futures. And we needn’t limit ourselves to Pollyanna stories to provide them. I’d bet that if we’re living a one-planet life in 20 years that life will be more full of weirdness, paradox and conflict than it is today… a bright green future might well be inherently science fictional.
Thanks Alex, Steve. Providing serious alternatives to the current way of life is essential if we want people to change. Good luck with your books Steve, we’ll need them!
I’m very much enjoying WorldChanging, Alex. Your site does a really good job of presenting problems and alternatives without depressing or overly scaring the reader into submission. I look forward to reading more of it over the coming years.
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