We conclude our week-long feature on The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway with three maps from 2393 that illustrate the ravages of climate change on Bangladesh, New York, and Florida. The commentary comes from a twenty-fourth century historian looking back at how twenty-first century leaders failed to react to the growing threats to the environment:
Bangladesh Among North Americans, Bangladesh—one of the poorest nations of the world—served as an ideological battleground. Self-described “Climate Hawks” used it to levy moral demands for greenhouse gas reductions so that it would not suffer inundation, while so-called “Climate Realists” insisted that only economic growth powered by cheap fossil fuels would make Bangladeshis wealthy enough to save themselves. In reality, “unfettered economic growth” made a handful of Bangladeshis wealthy enough to flee. The poor were left to the floods.
New York City in the twenty-fourth century Once the financial capital of the world, New York began in the early twenty-first century to attempt to defend its elaborate and expensive infrastructure against the sea. But that infrastructure had been designed and built with an expectation of constant seas and was not easily adapted to continuous, rapid rise. Like the Netherlands, New York City gradually lost its struggle. Ultimately, it proved less expensive to retreat to higher ground, abandoning centuries’ worth of capital investments.
The former state of Florida (part of the former United States) In one of the many paradoxes of history, the inhabitants of late-twentieth-century Florida were engaged in a grand project to save an enormous sea-level wetlands region known as the Everglades from urban growth and the diversion of freshwater to urban and agricultural use. Yet even the low-end estimates of twenty-first century sea-level rise rendered this effort pointless due to inundation; what actually happened cost Floridians both the Everglades and many of their major cities.