Come Hell or High Water | The Environmental Gotterdammerung
The unrelenting frequency, intensity and resulting destruction from meteorological events notably heat, drought and rising sea levels are a long-term trend that is fracturing global economic-socio-political stability. Such weather that is literally “neither fit for man nor beast” is no longer a local or regional matter, rather global.
Hell | Dante’s Inferno on Earth
Droughts and severe water scarcity is increasing in duration and severity globally with an immediate deleterious impact on agriculture forcing the internal and external displacement of citizens and, like falling dominos, creating a post-pandemic public health crisis.
The global overview of this crisis is captured in the following chart entitled World Sees Record Heat Waves, record temperatures in select countries for the past 5 years, compiled by the World Meteorological Organization media reports and Statista research.
From a sub-continental perspective, even South Asia whose temperatures are historically high, has suffered from unusually prolonged record-setting temperatures that have aggravated a several decades-old severe public health crisis in high pollution urban areas.
The following chart entitled How India Is Heating Up provided by the India Meteorological Department and Ministry of Earth Sciences via MOSPI EnviStats Inia report, present a visual comparative temperature change analysis of decades-long blocks with the most recent period (2011-2020) indicating the most disturbing trend.
This summer Europe is experiencing its most intense wildfire season. The following chart entitled Europe’s Wildfire Season Is Starting Earlier Each Year provided by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) indicates the increasing area of land burnt by forest fires.
According to EFFIS the present-day forest fires are THREE times the average size for the period 2008-2021 with Spain and France presenting 40% of the land burnt January-June 2022. Burnt forests from these two countries are FOUR times higher than the average from the period 2008-2020.
Specific to Europe, should these rising temperature trends continue, the long-term forecast will convert cities with historically moderate temperature levels into sub-tropical ones according to the following chart entitled London Could Feel as Hot as Barcelona by 2050 provided by Jean-Francois Bastin et al.
High Water | No Day at the Beach
Since 1993 sea levels have continued to rise unabated no doubt caused by global rising temperatures accelerating melting in Antarctica and the Arctic. This trend is expressed in the following chart entitled Sea Levels Continue to Rise provided by NASA.
A projected snapshot of where and how these sea levels will impact the global population by 2100 is indicated in the following chart entitled Where Most People Are Affected by Rising Sea Levels in a report authored by provided by Scott A. Kulp & Benjamin H. Strauss for the scientific magazine Nature Communications.
Their research report projected that by 2100, 200 million people will live BELOW sea level and 160 million will be directly impacted by rising ocean levels under the assumption of an average global temperatures increase of 2 degrees Celsius.
Of the aforementioned 200 million people, 70% will live in 8 countries in Asia: China 43 million, Bangladesh 32 million, India 27 million in addition to Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan.
Even many European countries will face this dilemma, though to a lesser extent than Asia, notably the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, France and Italy.
A Restive Citizenry and Crowd Control
As resources dwindle resulting in less food and fewer habitable regions, those citizens most impacted will decamp their home regions and seek those regions where those resources are still obtainable such as the already burgeoning and dense urban areas. Even a modicum of newly arrived refugees in urban areas, already at the breaking point to provide resources, can easily trigger intense civil unrest.
Even the gated communities won’t have walls high enough to repel the throng of the desperate. Even those well-off citizens will experience a lifestyle degradation composed of the key survival tenets of food, water, warmth and shelter.
Democracies may become illiberal democracies through selective emergency measures (if not already codified), suppression of civil rights, rationing of food, water and energy, hyper & invasive surveillance and even freedom of movement. Authoritarian regimes merely tighten the noose.
It’s an environmental pincer movement that has slowly progressed over many decades as sea levels push people inland toward the raging wildfires. It’s reached the point that it’s directly affecting developing countries at an enormous and unsupportable economic cost.
The cascade of meteorological problems could erode and undermine democratic institutions. The draconian measures applied during the pandemic exposed what democratic governments are willing to do and aggressively enforce.
Already the public is pushing back, and pushing back hard, in numerous countries worldwide that go beyond the Civil Rights playbook of non-violent disobedience.
How democratic governments interact with their citizenry will determine whether there is merely civil unrest with the possibility of an acceptable resolution or a societal collapse.
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The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.