Hurray I awake from yesterday
Alive but the war is here to stay
So my love Catherina and me
Decide to take our last walk thru the noise to the sea
Not to die but to be reborn
Away from the lands so battered and torn
Oh say can you see it’s really such a mess
Every inch of earth is a fighting nest
Giant pencil and lipstick-tube shaped things
Continue to rain and cause screaming pain
And the arctic stains from silver blue to bloody red
As our feet find the sand and the sea
Is straight ahead
Straight up ahead
Well it’s too bad that our friends can’t be with us today
Well it’s too bad
The machine that we built
Would never save us that’s what they say
That’s why they ain’t coming with us today
And they also said it’s impossible
For a man to live and breathe underwater
Forever was a main complaint
Yeah and they also threw this in my face, they said
Anyway, you know good and well
It would be beyond the will of God
And the grace of the king
Grace of the king
So my darling and I make love in the sand
To salute the last moment ever on dry land
Our machine it has done its work, played it’s part well
Without a scratch on our body when we bid it farewell
Starfish and giant foams greet us with a smile
Before our heads go under, we take our last look at the killing noise
Of the out of style
The out of style out of style
So down and down and down and down we go
Hurry my darling we mustn’t be late
For the show
Neptune champion games to an aqua world is so very dear
Right this way smiles a mermaid
I can hear Atlantis full of cheer
Atlantis full of cheer
I can hear Atlantis full of cheer
NB: This “sample” post of 680 words explores one dimension of Life Plus 2 Meters. Many perspectives are valid!
The 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano led to the cancellation of flights in 20 countries and delays for 10 million passengers. The interruptions highlighted our dependence on moving people and things by air. The economic “loss” from 7 days of cancelled flights totalled approximately 1.7 billion USD. Thankfully, nobody was killed by high winds, low visibility or increased air pollution.
My girlfriend and I experienced a different kind of delay in December 2013 when Dallas airport was closed down by “unexpected” snowfall. Our trip from Vancouver to the Galapagos was saved, thankfully, by rerouting via Miami.
Air travel has a disproportionate impact on climate change because its GHG emissions occur at high altitudes, but air travel also brings disproportionate benefits to many. Most people in the developed world fly to do business, see family, and enjoy vacations. The falling cost of air travel means that many people in developing countries are joining them.
The sad news is that the delays and dangers of air travel are going to increase in the future. Although Life plus 2 Meters is unlikely to mean more volcanic eruptions, it is going to deliver similar interruptions in a different pattern. Increasing GHG concentrations are warming the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans at different rates. Changed heat patterns are affecting the rate of glacial melting and the circulation of water between the ocean’s surface and depths. Those impacts are, in turn, affecting the mighty currents that circulate water between the tropics and polar regions. Hansen et al (2016) predict — based on models, paleo-climate evidence, and extrapolation of current ocean temperatures and currents — that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) will slow and shut down in the next few decades. The AMOC — by moving water from the Caribbean to the North Atlantic — modulates temperatures and storms in the North Atlantic. We can expect, therefore, more extreme temperatures and storms without the AMOC.
Colder winters and stronger storms will force humans, activities and infrastructure into unfamiliar territory. Impacts will be felt at all levels and sectors of society as “weird weather” disrupts agriculture, tests heating and power infrastructure, stresses ecosystems, and forces people to revisit habits of work and life, but the rest of this post will focus on air travel.
Temperature extremes are going to disrupt and endanger air travel. In northern latitudes, planes will need to “de-ice” more often, airports will face more snow and ice, and softer materials — everything from rubber to human skin — will need to be protected or replaced. More, stronger storms will increase risks from lightning strikes, floods and updrafts that will make it harder for planes to maneuver, take-off, fly and land. The situation might be worse in the tropics if hurricanes and rising sea levels attack airports from above and below. (This article discusses vulnerabilities at 14 major American airports, including 5 in the tropics.)
Strained and broken equipment and systems will increase danger for passengers, so flight schedules will need to be padded to cope with delays and cancellations. These changes will add to the cost of air tickets as well as the risk of travel. Airports in poorer areas may have to shut down if adaptation is too expensive, increasing social distance and economic inequality.
People will cope in different ways. Virtual business meetings will become more common, family reunions less frequent. Deaths will increase from current levels (117 per billion journeys, better than motorcycles but worse than cars) to higher levels. Innovations in technology and best practices will reduce or perhaps even overcome these losses, but “perfect storms” of bad conditions will surprise and kill us. Runways will buckle or crumble into sinkholes, short-circuits will leave planes blind, turbulence will turn planes into roller coasters.
Liquid fossil fuels are particularly well suited for flying, so they are unlikely to be replaced by “sustainable” alternatives, but that detail is unlikely to matter to people worried about iced jets chopping through turbulence to land on a runway that may hide a fatal pothole. The future of flying is more likely to be affected by outside changes that make the skies not-as-friendly to fly.
David Zetland is an assistant professor at Leiden University College, where he teaches various classes on economics. He received his PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Davis in 2008. He blogs on water, economics and politics at aguanomics.com, has two books (The End of Abundance: economic solutions to water scarcity and Living with Water Scarcity), gives many talks to public, professional and academic audiences, and writes for popular and academic outlets. David lives in Amsterdam.