Imagine that we have arrived at the year 2100 and there is cause for some celebration. We appear to have made progress in dealing with climate change. The Earth’s temperature has stopped climbing. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are under control and there is every indication that the volume will slowly ebb until it falls back to 350 parts per million (ppm) that scientists told us was safe at the turn of the century.
The journey over the decades was challenging but the decisions made at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) were accepted. The status quo was never an option. Developed nations wanted to avoid a cap on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) but they were pressured by the small undeveloped and island countries and eventually capitulated.
China, India, the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia all signed the treaty in South Africa. Developing countries complained that they wanted more time to work out agreements with big industry but eventually they too agreed to take immediate action and start down the long road to a carbonless world.
Over the 89 years from 2011 the world’s population witnessed devastating floods, wild fires, drought, and species extinction almost everywhere.
Millions of people died and millions were displaced from their home countries. It was a miserable time for many.
Cities that had been built over decades on river deltas or at sea level lost those portions that were flooded, when the ocean levels rose as a result of the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps. Glaciers everywhere in the world melted and cities that depended on the rivers that flowed from them for water became innovative in developing ways to store sufficient water for household use. Rainwater collection for non-potable uses became commonplace.
Attitudes changed and a new economy emerged, built around conservation of the environment. Interestingly enough, the term “green” disappeared.
The transportation of manufactured goods and produce shifted from big trucks to railway cars. Railways were retrofitted to accommodate faster trains. High-speed passenger trains moved people quickly over long distances.
Solar energy became popular, even with the climate change deniers who willingly installed them on the roofs of their houses mainly for heating water. The transition to solar energy was made easier with government grants that were offered in support of installations. Solar panels don’t require the high maintenance that power lines do and they don’t require massive power line corridors to transport the electricity from its source to its users.
The attitudes of the general population changed much faster than those of the politicians over the century. Governments were slow to transfer their support to non-carbon producing industries but they were eventually persuaded to do so by the solar and wind power. After a time, the money for research and development began to flow in their direction.
Fossil fuel industries were gradually phased out or retrofitted so they could operate on alternative energy sources. The oil sands development was eventually abandoned.
Subsistence agriculture was practiced extensively on land that had sat idle for years in the Grand Forks region. Farming practices that had worked well in the 19th and 20th centuries were revived.
Water conservation became the norm. It was too precious and such short supply that it could not be wasted. The Kettle River watershed changed dramatically. With lower snow packs and less rain the rivers were near being dry in summer.
Plans to build dams throughout the river system were quashed by people who valued biodiversity over river modification.
The downtown core of Grand Forks eventually made the transition from a vehicle oriented to a pedestrian-oriented locale. Market Ave. has been free of traffic for several decades and residents love it.
It was a chaotic century but humans are the better for having lived through it.