Friday, March 23, 2012

POLAR DREAMING

With sci fi writer Jim Laughter releasing his new climate thriller titled "Polar City Red" on Earth Day in late April, and with Hollywood already
expressing an interest in developing the book for a movie deal after reading about it here, blogs and discussions boards around the world
are lighting up with opinions, too -- pro and con -- on what the future just might look like for the human species locked onto the third rock from the sun.

The following quotes are from genuine emails from real scientists and experts in the field of climate change and scientific research regarding
Laughter's novel theme. Since the emails were private emails and not intended for publication with names attached, this reporter has decided to keep actual names private, keeping with international standards of internet etiquette.

What follows are comments from scientists and professors in several English-speaking countries, and one from Russia. (A Hollywood production company
has already expressed interest in taking an option on Laughter's book for possible screenplay development with studio backing. Stay tuned to this website.)


Professor A: “If it comes to that, in the far distant future, as you say, we probably won’t have the social stability to
sustain such advanced developments as ‘polar cities’.”

Professor B: “While I think that polar cities might surface as a reasonable model for future habitation, I’m still not ready to give up on reorganizing ourselves in the lower latitudes just yet. In other words, given the warming scenarios, why not simply reconstruct sustainable (and, most especially equitable) kinds of communities in northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Russia Scandinavia?”

Professor C: “With the movement of grain belts north, and the thawing of lots of open ground, wouldn’t it be much easier, less costly and accommodate many more of global warming ‘refugees; if we were to build closed-loop, sustainable communities in the north — but above ground? Are your polar cities above ground or below ground?”

Professor D: “The notion of polar cities for survivors of global warming in the distant future is quite provocative — and most interesting. My real hope is that it will help prod the conversation in the direction it needs to go. If it serves that purpose, that, alone, will be a considerable achievement.”

Professor E: “I doubt I would have any useful comments to make on something 60 years from now. However, people are clever and will create for themselves very interesting living conditions as time goes on.”

Professor F: “I had not heard of this idea until now. If we do not halt global warming, it is probable that by 2076 the polar areas will be quite warm. It will probably take many thousands of years to melt all the ice in Antarctica, but the northern tundra of Canada and Siberia may become more habitable and it may indeed be possible to establish cities there. However, most of the tropical and all the temperate zones will also still be habitable. In any case most people are not likely to try to make plans more than 100 years ahead.”

Professor G: “The last time the Earth was this warm with high levels of CO2 was the Cretaceous Era, and at that time the temperature was not much hotter in the tropics than at the poles, so yes, I think James Lovelock is wrong. Of course we don’t want to wait and see, do we? There is still a chance of stopping things before they go too far."

Professor H: “If we don’t take action immediately to begin reducing GHG emissions, we could end up with a planet that has habitable zones only at high latitudes. However, we probably should not forget about global warming’s twin, global cooling, who still may be lurking up the road. I’m inclined to think, however, that global warming is going to carry the day as various positive feedbacks kick in. Regarding ‘polar cities’, I’m unclear about how long it will take the tundra to transition to a non-frozen, heavy weight bearing state, which I suppose would be necessary for construction to progress. When tundra melts, how long does it take for the muck to solidify into weight bearing soil?”

Professor I: “Civilization can gradually move to higher latitudes and altitudes. The
required times are a century more, so this will happen naturally, almost
imperceptibly. This sort of shift has happened in the past as climate
has changed, leaving behind archaeological sites. The world is full of
ghost towns that were populated hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Famous examples are Pompeii and Ostia Antica near Rome and the abandoned
farmsteads on Greenland, but Europe is full of them (often plowed under
by modern agriculture). Moving to the poles is more remote (the North Pole is under water). Note the global warming warms the winters, not the summers, so that
the present tropics and temperate latitudes will not become uninhabitable.”

Professor J: “We’ll adapt to a warmer climate. In the late Middle Ages, this is
called a Climatic Optimum. Cities naturally turn over their
infrastructure on a time of 50 — 100 years, so the cost of moving
inland (uphill) is not prohibitive compared to the ordinary costs of
maintaining a living city.”

Professor K: “Global warming warms cold winters. It doesn’t affect hot places or hot
summers. Nothing is going to become uninhabitable, although places already
very hot (Death Valley, Persian Gulf, Sahara, etc.) will remain so.”

Professor L: “Thank you for sending me the polar city images you have created. It may very well happen and soon.”

Professor M: “As for James Lovelock and his predictions, he doesn’t understand climate or
physics. He only knows that doomsaying sells books, and he won’t live to
be proven wrong.”

Professor N: “I am an optimist on human adaptability because history shows that humans
(and ecosystems) adapt to change. The details may be a problem (arctic and
alpine species may go extinct, millions may die in floods in Bangladesh,
though this is avoidable with sensible planning and preparation, many
coastal cities will be abandoned, etc.) but humanity will survive. If
Eskimos can survive the arctic, Bedouin the Arabian desert and various
Indian tribes the Amazon, all with stone-age technology, humanity as a
whole will survive the climate of the next 500 years, whatever it will
be. The Earth won’t turn into Venus.”

Professor O: “We cannot plan for future centuries ahead because technology will change so much.
Suppose we tried to plan in 1900 for cities of today — 2008. Big apartment houses,
a small grocery on every block, ice factories in every neighborhood, express
streetcar lines everywhere, lots of TB sanitaria and isolation wards for new
immigrants, utility poles for thousands of telephone wires everywhere…”

Professor P: “It's a thought
provoking idea but the very idea of future generations having to move to the
arctic in a few hundred years time makes me shiver, and I fear it may
sound scaremongering to others.”

Professor Q: “Je crois que James Lovelock exagere peu etre un peu trop. Bien que ce
scenario reste plausible, il serait dommage que nous ne pourrions pas
changer le futur plus que ca. J’ai bien lu le livre de Mr. Lovelock et je
crois qu’il a bien dessine les possibilites atroces qui peuvent nous
attendre. Je ne crois pas d’autres parts que ses predictions nefastes qui
sont dominantes dans la derniere partie de son livre sont croyables, surtout
que celles-ci ne sont pas basees sur des recherches scientifiques assez
valables. Votre scenario de ville futuristique enfin est intrigant et, souhaitons le,
ne sera pas necessaire.”

Professor S — [Sergey Asimov, Russia, Northeast Station, Siberia]: “Thank you for your interest to the topic.
I would say yes, the world might need ‘Polar Cities’ some time. I think
it can happen earlier than most people think.”

Professor T: “Climate change will come upon us far more rapidly than that! It will happen much quicker than that! And you can quote me on that!”

Professor U: “Polar cities are a fine idea. I am sure there will be more urbanization near the poles as the Earth warms. Of course we need some planning, but it is just not something I have given much thought to. There is a guy in Holland who is promoting floating cities, so there are all kinds of ideas out there. I am a little busy to give a lot of attention to every idea.”

Professor V: “I think the polar cities might surface as a reasonable model for
future habitation. But I’m not ready to give up on reorganizing
ourselves in the lower latitudes just yet.”

Professor W: “I have a daughter, and in my bones I am afraid for her and her children.”

Professor X: “I think the futuristic look of the polar cities graphics is blinding us to the reality that we already have “polar cities” – in Russia and Alaska. The cities portrayed somehow suggest an alien ice environment, but with global warming the area will actually be more human friendly.”

Professor Y: “It is not productive to talk about polar cities now, when humanity needs to focus on how the
world can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s silly to think 200 or 300 years into future, it’s more useful to
think 20 or 30 years out.”

Professor Z: “If your ideas alert the public to the real dangers of climate change and global warming, then your project is a good one. But who knows what life will be like 60 years from now. It might be too late by then.”

2 comments:

David Chiles said...

Thanks for sharing insightful emails about the possible effects of changing weather patterns. I agree with your decision not to post the names of the authors. Good netiquette!

Keltnerxgrf said...

Thanks for sharing insightful emails about the possible effects of changing weather patterns. I agree with your decision not to post the names of the authors. Good netiquette !