In two recent international news articles about climate change ("How much more proof is needed for people to act" and "Ignoring the future - the psychology of denial"), the importance of facing major issues that will confront the future of the human species were emphasized.
Climate change is indeed an issue that is on everyone's mind today, and while Australia and New Zealand seem to be far removed from the experts who recently made their way to Copenhagen to try to hammer our blueprints to prevent global warming from having a doomsday impact on humankind, these two Pacific Ocean countries, facing Asia to the north and Antarctica to the south will be on the front line of these issues.
Despite most observers thinking that solutions lie in mitigation ideas, there are a growing number of climatologists and scientists who believe that the A-word - adaptation - must be confronted head-on, too. The fact is, despite the head-in-the-sand protestations of climate denialists, we cannot stop climate change or global warming.
The Earth's atmosphere has already passed the tipping point, and in the next 500 years, temperatures will rise considerably, sea levels will rise considerably and millions, even billions, of people from the tropical and temperate zones of the Earth will be forced to migrate north in search of food, fuel and shelter. This is where Australia, and New Zealand in particular, will play central roles.
By the year 2500, New Zealand and Tasmania could be home to millions, even billions, of climate refugees from India and China and other Asia nations who will have migrated south, seeking safe harbor from the devastating impact of global warming in those future times.
Many parts of the Australian and New Zealand coastlines will be under water, and both countries will find themselves home to new kinds of visitors from Asia and Europe. They won't be coming on cruise ships or airplanes, since there will be no fuel for such services. They will be coming by rudimentary sailing vessels and barges. Prepare yourselves.
Australians and New Zealanders must be prepared for the worst-case scenario. By 2500, millions, billions of people will have been forced to leave their home countries in the tropical and temperate zones and migrate south en masse to faraway southern regions to find shelter in United Nations-funded climate refuges in places such as Tasmania and New Zealand. People from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and the Philippines will make their way there, especially to LifeBoat New Zealand. It won't be a pretty picture.
When I asked acclaimed British scientist James Lovelock if such a scenario for Australia and New Zealand was likely, he said in an e-mail: "It may very well happen, yes."
Humans cannot engineer our way out of global warming, although scientists who believe in geo-engineering have offered their theories on how to do it. There are no easy fixes. Humankind has put too many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the result of the industrial revolution that gave us trains, plans and automobiles - and much more to live comfortable and trendy lives - and now there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Earth cannot recover. Forget trying to be more "green" in our daily lives. Australia and New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is now doomed to a very bleak future. There will be millions of climate refugees seeking shelter in Alaska and Canada, of courcse, but also in far south places such as New Zealand, Tasmania and Antarctica as well.Meetings in Copenhagen and Rio de Janiero and at the U.N. building in Manhattan will not stop global warming. What we need to focus on now is preparing future generations for what our world will become in the next 500 years and how best to survive it. The national legislatures of both New Zealand and Australia need to start thinking about these issues, too.
For the next 100 years or so, life will go on as normal in New Zealand and Australia, so don't worry too much. There is nothing to worry about now. For the next 100 years, posh department stores will continue to hawk their trendy items, international computer firms will continue to launch their latest cell phones and tech gadgets, and airline companies will continue to offer passengers quick passage here and there, to the Maldives and to Manhattan, for business and for pleasure. But in the next 500 years, according to Lovelock and otther scientists who are not afraid to think outside the box, things are going to get bad. Unspeakably bad. Those of us who are alive today won't suffer, and the next few generations of humans will be fine, too. The big troubles will probably start around 2200 - Lovelock says sooner - and last for some 300 years or so. By 2500, much of Australia will be uninhabited, although Tasmania will offer safe refuge to climate refugees who make it there, and New Zealand, too. Most of the countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, North America, South America and Europe will be uninhabited, too. Prepare yourselves, o ye who think this is all science fiction. In fact, this is science fact!
We are entering uncharted waters, and as the waters rise and the temperatures go up as well, future generations will have some important choices to make: where to live, how to live, how to grow food, how to power their climate refugee settlements, how to plan and how to pray. Alaska will be on the front lines of this new world. The question is: will Alaska be ready?
• Dan E. Bloom is a former editor of the Capital City Weekly who has been living in Asia since 1991. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.