creativity

What will the world be like if we take no climate action now?

We hear a lot about climate change and how devastating the impacts will be if we do nothing. To save the planet is the reason I decided to go back to graduate school at University of Cambridge in Sustainability Leadership and pivot my career to focus on this cause. But what does a lack of climate action mean specifically, decade by decade? What happens to the planet, and to us, if we stay on our current trajectory? And just as importantly, where do we go if we have an idea for climate action?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has a 2-minute video outlining some of the specific impacts of continued climate change on our current path starting in the year 2030 and going through 2100. The impacts are sobering, backed up by scientific research referenced in the video, and outlined in the list below.

But all isn’t lost. We do have a short period of time right now to make massive changes to save the planet, the species with whom we share it, and create 395 million jobs with the transition to a nature-positive economy. Said another way, biomimicry and creating our built environment, products, and services based on nature’s design principles is the answer—we must transition to a nature-positive economy and society.

And if have an idea for climate action, WEF wants you to share that idea and get involved through their free online community portal called UpLink where you’ll find hope, information, data, and updates on climate action projects that are underway right now.

What does the world look like in the coming decades if we don’t take climate action. Here’s a sampling of that future:

The 2030s:

  • Ice caps and crucial ice sheets continue to melt, swelling sea levels by 20 centimeters [7.87 inches]
  • 90% of coral reefs threatened by human activity, while 60% are highly endangered
  • Dwindling crop yields push more than 100 million more people into extreme poverty
  • Climate change-related illnesses kill an additional 250,000 people each year

The 2040s:

  • The world has shot past its 1.5-degree Celsius [2.7-degree Fahrenheit] Paris Agreement temperature rise limit
  • Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Thailand are threatened by annual floods, sparking mass migration
  • 8% of the global population has seen a severe reduction in water availability
  • The Arctic is now ice-free in summer
  • Sea levels have risen 20 centimeters [2 feet] in the Gulf of Mexico, where hurricanes deliver devastating storm surges

The 2050s:

  • 2 billion people face 60-degree Celsius [140 degrees Fahrenheight] temperatures for more than a month every year
  • In much of the world, masks are needed daily–not for disease prevention, but to protect our lungs from smog
  • The Northeast United States now sees 25 major floods a year, up from 1 in 2020
  • 140 million people are displaced by food and water insecurity or extreme weather events

2100 and beyond:

  • The average global temperature has soared more than 4 degrees Celsius [7.2 degrees Fahrenheit]–and even more in northern latitudes
  • Rising sea levels have rendered coastlines unrecognizable, and Florida has largely disappeared
  • Coral reefs have largely vanished, taking with them 25% of the world’s fish habitats
  • Insects have been consigned to history, causing massive crop failures due to the lack of pollinators
  • Severe drought now affects more than 40% of the planet
  • An area the size of Massachusetts burns in the US every year
  • Southern Spain and Portugal have become a desert, tipping millions into food and water insecurity

This is a terrifying, painful future and it’s only a few years away right now. But again, we know what we need to do—create our built environments, products, and services to mimic those of the natural world. Biomimicry can save us and the natural world. This means we must:

  • exit fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources
  • restore, protect, and expand natural habitats and wild areas
  • end the use of single-use plastic and harmful chemical pesticides

None of this will be easy but the choice is truly one of life—ours and all the other species who are counting on us to change our ways and clean up how we live on this planet—or death. Either we choose to make these difficult choices now in our companies and governments, or we are forced to make them later when it may be too late. To learn more and get involved, please visit UpLink: https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/. We have no time to waste and the planet needs all of us to take action.

2 thoughts on “What will the world be like if we take no climate action now?”

  1. ABC News and 20/20 did an animated “mini-movie” similar to this called “Earth 2100”. It not only showed the environmental impact, but also the cataclysmic ripple effect on our civilization and very humanity. I truly believe that unless we make changes now, we could face devastation like we have never seen before. The hope lies in us, the only species capable of logic and reasoning, and using those gifts to bring about positive change for the future. But will our politicians and leaders listen? (“Earth 2100” can still be found on YouTube I think).

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    1. Yes! A friend sent that to me years ago and I still think about it all the time. What’s devastating is that we’re actually ahead of where the scientists in that film thought we’d be now, meaning climate change is happening even faster than that movie predicted.

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