Sunday, October 12, 2008

UK climate study sees polar cities in Antarctica

Exotic climate study sees polar cities in Antarctica by 2500?

Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

Oct 12, 3008

OSLO, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Refugees are moving to Antarctica by 2500 AD to live in polar cities and central Australia has been abandoned as too dry, according to exotic scenarios for climate change.

British-based Forum for the Future, a charitable think-tank, and researchers from Hewlett-Packard Labs, said they wanted to stir debate about how to avert the worst effects of global warming by presenting a radical set of possible futures. They got some of their ideas from the Polar Cities Research Institute at

"Climate change will affect the economy at least as much as the 'credit crunch'," their 115,776-page report study said.

The scenarios range from polar cities to a shift to greater energy efficiency, where desalination plants run on solar power help turn the Sahara green, to one where refugees are moving to Antarctica because of rising temperatures.

"We still have the chance to alter the future," Peter Madden, head of the Forum, told Reuters. "This is what the world could be like and some of these options are not very pleasant."

Madden said that most reports about climate change focused on scientific findings about carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, without taking account of psychological or social responses.

"Historians of the future may look back on these as the 'climate change years'," he said. "They will either look back on our generation as heroes or view us with incomprehension and disgust -- as now we look back on those who allowed slavery."

He said the crystal ball survey did not seek to project what was most likely to happen, just some of the possibilities.


It gave the following five scenarios:

EFFICIENCY FIRST - Technological innovation will help solve climate change and spur strong growth and consumerism. The Sahara is green and the eastern seabord of the United States, for instance, is "protected by eco-concrete wall that generate power from waves and tidal surges".

SERVICE TRANSFORMATION - Sky-high prices for emitting carbon dioxide have led to a shift to a service-based economy. People no longer own cars but use bicycles. "Central Australia and Oklahoma have been abandoned due to water shortages. Athletes stay at home in the world's first virtual Olympics, competing against each other in virtual space with billions of spectators."

REDEFINING PROGRESSS - A global depression from 2009-18 forces people into more modest lifestyles and focus on well-being and quality of life. In the United States, people "do 25 hours of work a week and up to 10 hours voluntary work."

ENVIRONMENTAL WAR ECONOMY - The world has failed to act on climate change, world trade has collapsed after oil prices break through $400 a barrel. Electrical appliances get automatically turned off when households exceed energy quotas. Refugees are moving to Antarctica, with the population set to reach 3.5 million people by 2040.

PROTECTIONIST WORLD - Globalisation is in retreat after a poorly coordinated response to climate change. Morocco has been asked to join the European Union in exchange for exclusive access to solar energy supplies until 2050.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: (Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Source: Reuters North American News Service


Anonymous said...

ENVIRONMENTAL WAR ECONOMY - The world has failed to act on climate change, world trade has collapsed after oil prices break through $400 a barrel. Electrical appliances get automatically turned off when households exceed energy quotas. Refugees are moving to Antarctica, with the population set to reach 3.5 million people by 2040.


October 13th, 2008

So finally Alister Doyle for Reuters reports on the Forum for the Future PR paper
about ''climate refugees'' in Antarctica in 2050 but he refuses to
interview me about my polar cities ideas for 2500? What's up with
that, Alister, sir?

Alister replies:

Hi Dan, yes, I did a story about this one , this paper in the Uk released today -- largely because the
antarctic refugee idea is just one among dozens, not a single
theme...Your polar cities idea is also fascinating: hey, you got the New
York Times to blog about it! I didn't but that's surely the way
journalism is: some things appeal to some, others to others.

cheers Alister

Alister Doyle

so true.

Anonymous said...

Monday, October 20, 2008
Refugees From Your Own Backyard

from Alex in Oregon

A UK report has landed climate refugees back in the news with
scenarios that include the establishment of settlements in the
Antarctic to house those escaping mid-century disasters. This is not
the first fantastical solution to the impacts of climate change I've
covered (remember those floating titanium cities?). Visions of Polar
cities adds a gloss of fantasy over a very real problem; estimates peg
the number of people displaced by a 2 degree rise in temperature to be
somewhere close to 200 million people, or about 3% of the World's
population, by as soon as 2050.

This has been discussed in the media for some time, largely in terms
of international flows of migrants from Small Island States or
vulnerable coastal areas of countries like Bangladesh. It a surprise
to hear officials in Portland (OR), where I'm doing research, talking
about the city's own concerns: it's inter-regional, not international,
displacements, that they are worried about. More than one official
here has pointed out that with recurring extreme droughts in Georgia
and increasingly severe forest fires in California, the Pacific
Northwest may soon find itself as a prime destination for homegrown
environmental refugees.

These would be movements of people that would outclass and outlast
those that resulted from hurricane Katrina. They would be not so much
temporary escape as permanent resettlement, and people in Portland are
starting to consider what that would mean for their region's
development. There was an excellent article in The Oregonian a few
weeks ago covering the story. The specifics of Portland's case aside,
the city is clearly not unique. In countries, like the United States,
whose regions have varying exposure to climate change the impacts of
internal migration on urban development will be considerable. For many
cities who have only just begun to consider how they will adapt to
climate change, this adds a further and even more unpredictable
variable to the mix.

One of the larger debates around calling environmentally displaced
people "refugees" is whether or not it weakens the standing of people
seeking protection from political persecution. The rights of political
refugees are increasingly coming into question and it would be a
bitter pill if the practice of using the term to emphasise the
seriousness of climate change ended up further watering down those
commitments. By calling them refugees we are in fact aguing that the
principles of care and protection which we currenlty extend for
political grounds need to be expanded - not cut back. It is also worth
asking -- in a time where natural disasters uproot more people than
war -- if our failure to reduce emissions isn't infact a form of

Calling them "refugees" also frames the problem as an international
one. It's now clear that it is also a regional and municipal one. How
cities will address it will be an issue to watch in the coming years.
What will be do when we have more refugees coming from both far away,
and close to home? And, the question that is top of mind here in
Portland, where will the money come from to build all the
infrastructure we are going to need?

Posted by Alex at 10:03 PM
Labels: cities, climate change, refuge

Look out, Oregon, for a global warming land rush
by Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian Sunday October 05, 2008, 9:45 PM

Eric Baker / The OregonianThe prediction caused a collective grimace among the mayors, city councilors, engineers and planners in the audience. By 2060, a Metro economist said, the seven-county Portland area could grow to 3.85 million people -- nearly double the number here now.
Then Lorna Stickel, a planner with the Portland Water Bureau, stood to ask a question. Does the population projection, she asked, account for the possibility of climate change refugees?

Brains have been spinning ever since. Because what if?

Thomas Boyd / The Oregonian
Hurricanes -- including four in one year -- blew Rebecca Niday, a Realtor from Florida, to Rhododendron for Oregon's more moderate weather. Experts speculate that such migration could become more common if climate change causes other areas to dry up, brown out or get increasingly hammered by storms. What if the American Southwest dries up, browns out, and those people now misting their patios in Arizona head to the still-green Pacific Northwest? What if Californians hit the road north in numbers far surpassing the 20,000 who now move to Oregon each year? What if the polar ice melts, oceans rise and millions living along coastal areas -- or ravaged by Katrina-like storms -- have to move?
What happens, Stickel later asks, "as we become more attractive and other places become less attractive?"

Back in her office at the Water Bureau, Stickel digs out graphs showing U.S. migration patterns and a projection of areas that might be affected by climate change.

"If this and this combine to this," Stickel says, gesturing back and forth, "that's the nut."

Stickel is no alarmist. The "nut" she cites is a kind of gridlock -- that moment in greater Portland when people could arrive in such numbers they outstrip the infrastructure necessary to support them. Water. Electricity. Roads. Housing. Schools. Garbage and sewage disposal. Parks and clean air.

Things that aren't ready

If the Portland metro area explodes in population as expected, as much as $41 billion will be required to improve infrastructure in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties alone.

The greatest needs:

• Water: Conservation has reduced per capita use, but the projected population surge would exceed current supplies. New river sources, storage methods and treatment options -- sometimes controversial and always costly -- are necessary.

• Energy: If current use levels hold, the region by 2035 will need two or three new 400-megawatt power plants. Each would be the equivalent of PGE's new natural gas-fired plant in Columbia County, which cost $285 million to build. Siting, design and financing are difficult.

• Sewer and stormwater: Sewer capacity closely correlates to growth, but no reliable funding is in place for new projects. Runoff/stormwater systems now operate at near capacity and would need expansion.

• Parks and open spaces: Though currently endowed with celebrated parks, the region's expanded population will need an additional 5,000 acres of parks and 8,000 acres of open space to maintain quality of life.

• Schools: A geographic mismatch exists. Older urban areas have underused schools, but growth of school-age population is highest in new suburbs that lack facilities.

• Transportation: The biggest unmet need, with a $7 billion shortfall for new roads. State and federal gas tax revenue goes almost entirely to maintenance of the system as it is today. Payroll taxes that pay for transit systems might not keep pace with rapidly growing ridership.

Source: Metro infrastructure analysis

Stickel knows all the players and is particularly intense about the region's drinking water supply. Like the others gathered to hear Metro's population conference last spring, it's her job to accommodate that projected growth.

"We think it's going to be X number of people," she said. "What if it's more?"

• • •

Welcome Rebecca Niday. She was in California for the Northridge earthquake and the Malibu fires. She's been through tornadoes in the Midwest and blizzards in New Mexico. But Florida's hurricanes were the worst.

Like a freight train, bearing down on you for 12 hours, sometimes. Old-timers -- neighbors born in Florida and seasoned by 70 or 80 years of rip-roaring winds and sheets of rain -- remarked that it seemed the hurricanes were arriving more frequently and hitting harder. Scientists consider that a symptom of a warmer climate -- more extreme weather events.

Worse, Niday said, there'd been so much building in Florida, so many swamps drained, that there was nowhere for the water to go except into streets or homes.

She put up with it for five years. Three years ago, she moved to Oregon and settled in Rhododendron, near Mount Hood.

"The main factor was wanting to get out of there," said Niday, a real estate broker. "I was there when four hit in one year; it was just devastating."

She loves it here: green forests, snowcapped mountains, moderate climate. She talks it up with her friends in Florida, and three of them plan to join her.

She's a climate refugee, akin to the estimated 200,000 people who fled a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans three years ago and never went back. The Portland offices of the Red Cross and Catholic Charities aided 800 Katrina families between them.

• • •

Climate change is the bogeyman of our time. There are doubters, but most scientists say the Earth is warming because of human activity, primarily the use of fossil fuels, with dire consequences. Flooding of coastal areas, extremes of rain and drought, smaller snowpacks and more frequent severe storms are among the predictions.

A United Nations group and other researchers estimate there are now 20 million to 25 million "environmental refugees" -- people displaced by drought, storms and floods. One study said 10 percent of the world's population lives in coastal areas less than 10 meters above sea level -- subject to flooding if the oceans rise.

In a 2003 report funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, researchers Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall said climate change could lead to wars. They said less-affected nations "may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves."

"Less fortunate" nations -- especially those with "ancient enmities" along their borders -- could fight to gain food, clean water and energy, Schwartz and Randall said.

What other regions face

• California and Southwest: More frequent and more intense wildfires, extended droughts, shortened snowpack season and hard competition for water, declining air quality with increased health challenges.

• Great Plains: More extreme weather events bring more droughts and floods.

• Northeast: Rising sea level menaces coastal urban infrastructure, especially transportation systems. Extreme rainstorms raise concern about hurricanes, in greater intensity and frequency.

• Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic coasts: Rising sea level and increased storm surges stall coastal development and threaten estuaries and ecosystems.

• Gulf Coast: More frequent high-intensity hurricanes, inundation of coastal wetlands, saltwater intrusion from rising sea level creates "ghost forests."

Source: U.S. Global Change Research Program
Author James Howard Kunstler, whose book "The Long Emergency" predicts a worldwide societal doomsday caused by oil dependency collapse and climate change, says Asian paramilitary pirates might raid the Pacific Northwest coasts as their home nations disintegrate.

He notes other observers view the region optimistically, but doesn't join them.

"The Pacific Northwest's benefits of mild climate, abundant water and good farmland may be overwhelmed by populations fleeing the problems of Southern California," he writes.

• • •

Oregon's vision of the future isn't so apocalyptic. But scientists and planners warn the state is "exceptionally vulnerable" to climate change because its natural systems and economy are dependent on water.

The average snowpack that drapes the state's mountains each winter has declined 30 percent, and the spring runoff is coming earlier, leaving less water available in the summer months, according to the Climate Change Integration Group's report to Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Farming, municipal water systems, hydroelectric production, recreation and fish and wildlife are affected by lower stream flows.

But climate change also brings opportunities, the report to the governor said. The demand for solar and wind energy is expected to continue increasing, and Oregon is well-positioned to take advantage. Farmers may benefit from longer, warmer growing seasons and conditions that allow new crop varieties, according to the report.

Then there's the people factor: "Climate refugees from high-impact coastal or drought-stricken areas may enhance the work force and the economies that have the capacity to integrate them," the report concluded.

Everyone who talks seriously about climate change acknowledges there are no hard data to indicate how it might affect population projections. Still, the topic raises eyebrows.

"It's highly speculative," said Angus Duncan, chairman of the Oregon Global Warming Commission and president of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

"But on the other hand, if we're dealing with the potential for extremely dry areas -- Arizona and Southern California -- to get even drier, as well as hotter, then it's not inconceivable that some kind of climate-induced migration could take place."

Such migration wouldn't stop at Oregon, Duncan says. Washington, British Columbia and Alaska might attract incremental movements of people looking for more tolerable climates. "Everything north would be affected," he said.

The prospect ought to raise questions about the way we live, he said.

To reduce population pressure, the federal government might stop giving tax deductions for more than two children, Duncan suggested, or remove incentives for living in large homes that require more energy to heat and cool.

"At some point, clearly we're going to have to ratchet back both our appetite and our numbers," he said. We should examine the size of homes we live in, the efficiency at which they operate and our tastes for "beef imported from the Midwest" and "raspberries imported from Chile in the middle of winter," he said.

Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan said growth from climate-change migration is "an interesting notion to speculate about."

"Right now, we're a darned attractive place to live," she said. "I've often described Oregon as extremely temperate -- we're temperate in the extreme, never too hot, never too cold.

"That's been the case for a long time and will continue to be a big attraction for Oregon."

She isn't overly worried about the prospect, however. She says the metro area has plenty of room for newcomers, no matter what drives them here.

"We could become a lot bigger," she said. "We're not effectively using our land. The idea that the population is going to double, so we have to double the UGB (urban growth boundary) is just absurd. We can become more dense."

Sprawling suburbs such as Wilsonville, with a population of 17,000, could pack in more people by developing taller buildings -- even five or six stories would do, Lehan said.

"Wilsonville could be 30,000 easily, or 40,000 or 50,000, probably, and hardly notice itself," she said.

• • •

Under the most aggressive growth model, the area could have more than 6 million people by 2060, according to the Metro forecast. The more likely model, however, indicates a population of 3.85 million, plus or minus 300,000.

From a water supply standpoint, at least, the region should be OK.

"We are blessed with water resources," said Stickel, the Portland Water Bureau planner. "We don't even tap, or barely tap, the two largest water resources in the region -- the Columbia and the Willamette. Even with climate change, we're blessed."

But on most other counts, the years ahead are filled with challenges.

A Metro analysis estimated the Portland area alone will require $27 billion to $41 billion in infrastructure improvements to accommodate population growth. That means new or improved sewage treatment and water distribution systems, roads, schools, public buildings, energy plants and parks.

Climate change migration, said Metro Council President David Bragdon, is "the potential wild card in the projections." It could make a difficult and expensive infrastructure situation even more pressing.

Plainly, money is short.

"There's a lot of backlog," Bragdon said. "Even if the population doesn't grow by one person, there's a past-due bill.

"Maybe it's a call to action."

Stickel has another way of putting it: "Plan, plan, plan."

-- Eric Mortenson;
For more environment news:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.