Insights · January 27th, 2009
In 1999 and 2000 I had the privilege of helping to lead three retreat-like gatherings called Humanity 3000, in which scientists and international thought leaders asked a simple question: “What will it take for humanity to survive for another 1000 years?â€ Sponsored by the Foundation for the Future, the reports of those sessions can be found here, and some day I will write more about this project which involved the longest time horizon of any futures project I have worked on.
Today’s blog, however, is not about that project, but about a real-world effort to anticipate 1000 years, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and summarized at the Washington Post. Top scientists from the U.S. (NOAA), Switzerland, and France joined in study based on the fact that CO2 being added to the atmosphere will have very long-lasting impacts, even if the world succeeds in arresting and then reversing CO2 emissions in the relatively near future. It takes a long time for CO2 to leave the atmosphere, longer than other green house gases, and meanwhile it is doing its work to warm the planet.
The key conclusion is that the predicted impacts of global warming could be very long lasting. For example one impact anticipated is increased draught in certain parts of the world, like the Southwest United States. This report concludes that these areas could face a draught that would last not decades, but centuries, fundamentally altering the world. Imagine the dust bowl of the 1930’s but lasting for several hundred years.
As usual, this report suggests that the need to make reductions in green house gase emissions is urgent.
Susan Solomon, a NOAA senior scientist who led the effort, describes the results in this video.
The good news, so far as we are concerned, is that science will become a key driver of policy in the United States for the next four years, rather than the other way around.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.