What Would a 4°C Warmer World Look Like?

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In her book, “Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval”, Gaia Vince, an award-winning author, paints a 4-degree Celsius warmer world, what could likely happen, and how it would force the world on how and where to live.

Gaia Vince presents the following:

  • The world will become dismal as vast swathes of land around the equator will become lethally hot and rendered unlivable. Huge land areas will become deserts, and wildfires and floods will become more frequent and catastrophic.
  • The new world will lead to massive migration, such as never seen before. Some 3.4 billion people will be forced to move to cooler and more inhabitable parts of the world. Otherwise, they will face either gradual extinction or unimaginable suffering.
  • Canada, northern Europe, Russia, and New Zealand are some countries that will become home to these new migrants. The question is, will these nations open their borders to these new migrants?
  • But first, what could become of these vast desserts, and how will these countries cope with the multitude of new migrants?
  • Solar and wind energy plants will be built in the barren lands of north Africa to generate power. Greenland and Siberia will become significant food growers. Meanwhile, new host countries will have more high-rise buildings in their cities to accommodate billions of people living reasonably comfortably and with better energy efficiency.

Ms Vince presents the pros of migration to the new host countries, such as that it tends to enrich them, boosting their GDPs, especially when these people move from a poor and poorly run country to a well-governed one. New Zealand, Canada, and Northern Europe are great examples of this – as migrants from Africa and South Asia have become prosperous and have integrated well into these countries.

The Economist article, “Climate change may lead to staggering levels of migration,” gives an interesting take on Ms Vince’s stance on massive migration and its adverse effect on the host countries.

First, while the author has accurately observed the positive impact of migration, this occurred when the migrant flow is only a tiny fraction of what the author envisions.

A massive migration could upset nationalists and racists. Ms Vince offers a solution to this  problem, “We will need to shed some of our tribal identities to embrace a pan-species identity.”

But then, this is easier said than done, the article notes. Though migration is highly beneficial, in the case of a vast influx of people, gains from it mostly go to the migrants rather than the native-borns – voters who decide in the first place whether to admit migrants or not.

Letting in skilled foreign workers and professionals – like doctors and engineers are one thing. Allowing in numerous poor and ill-educated people is another, the article argues.

Ms Vince claims that if these migrants are in gainful work, they will be able to support themselves. But what if hundreds of millions of them can claim benefits as locals do, they will bankrupt these wealthy countries and if denied assistance, they can become a “visible underclass”. Politically the scenario could be bad for any aspiring politician. 

Secondly, the world is far from ready to welcome a “pan-species identity”—nationalism and culture count.

Apart from the United States and Australia, which have successfully demonstrated how integration can work, some countries like Hungary, Japan, and Sweden still refuse to try.

In his work, “Climate Change and the Nation State,” Anatol Lieven states that nationalism is here to stay and that mass movement of people from one state to another could trigger violence “on a genocidal scale”. He argues that the world could avoid this massive migration by empowering nations to fight climate change.

According to Mr Lieven, nationalism could be the key to the survival of these vulnerable countries, where people are willing to sacrifice today for their future generations. The idea of nationalism and the “save our nation” cry is also politically appealing to dictatorship and democratic governments.

Both authors present differing ideas from what appears to be from both ends of the spectrum. Ms envisage a world where cooler climate countries will embrace the multitude of climate migrants and how they can transform to make it work.

Meanwhile, Mr Lieven poses a world in which a massive migration could spark violence, and it would be better for the potential host countries when climate-vulnerable countries do their best to fight climate change.

The problem is climate change effects are upon us, and emission reductions from high emitting economies are neither fast nor sufficient enough to meet the safe temperature threshold the UN recommends.

The 2022 devastation in Pakistan and the sequence of extreme events happening worldwide should be a wake-up call to other vulnerable countries, prompting them to prepare for these events.

Soaring fossil fuel prices caused by the ongoing invasion of Russia in Ukraine are also forcing countries to revert to fossil fuels. India reopened their coal mines while President Biden opened more U.S. public land to drilling to cope with the high prices of oil and meet their domestic energy demands.

These actions could increase global carbon emissions and put nations off the path of their climate targets.

Perhaps the solution lies in the middle of the two arguments. First, vulnerable nations should fight climate change, and wealthy countries must help them. Second, when all things fail, the world should prepare to live in a society similar to what Ms Vince envisages.

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