photo by J. Mayell.
“We are on the top of Niagara Falls…in a canoe,” says scientist Ovid Byron in Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior. He’s talking to a reporter about climate change. “We got here by drifting,” but we cannot turn around for a lazy paddle back… We have,” he says, “arrived at the point of an audible roar.”
In July, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Institute announced that June was the hottest June on record. This comes on the heels of May being the hottest May on record, and the ocean temperature is the warmest of any month. August temperatures continue this trend.
Everyone is wondering how climate change will play out, and when.
We need both science and intuition to prepare for these global changes. Below I present the visions that my students and I have had in recent months, as well as the best of the climatologists’ projections for sea level rise by the end of the century.
The limits of scientific projections There are thousands of scientists studying climate change, and while they are doing a phenomenal job, they tend towards conservatism and underestimation. Statistical evidence requires that scientists are 95% certain of their results before they can conclude that their findings are real. The International Panel on Climate Change, the Bible on climate predictions, didn’t even include polar ice melt in their sea level rise estimates until last year because they didn’t feel they had enough of a handle on it! This is where intuition and intuitive visions can be helpful in filling in the blanks. Intuitive visions take into account the whole picture, including the factors we don’t understand. But inner visioning is a tricky business. So we use both– the inner visions and the science, to get a more complete picture.
And that picture is daunting. First, the warming trends are upward and accelerating, and like all natural systems, they will follow a geometric, not linear, progression. Geometric progressions start very small, but once they reach a certain critical mass, they surge.
Scientists’ Projected Sea Level Rise Depending on which study you read, climatologists estimate sea level rise will reach an average of three to six feet by century’s end. In a survey that is the most credible of the climatology studies because it combines scientific knowledge with a subjective intuitive element, ninety top climatologists gave their gut estimate for sea level rise by century’s end. Those estimates averaged six feet, which could mean twenty-four feet on the Atlantic seaboard. Of those ninety scientists, a dozen of them estimated ten to twenty feet for the global average, which, if correct, could mean forty to eighty feet along the Atlantic coast.
How do those estimates compare to our intuitive visions of the future?
OUR PREDICTIONS AND VISIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE: (Read this POST, for an updated list of predictions, .) We’ve seen that the sea will engulf large parts of Florida, and will also send people fleeing from New York City by 2100. Taken all together, our visions of the rest of this century fit Joanna Macy’s characterization of a “great unraveling” followed by a “great turning” to a more sustainable world. Here are some highlights:
- An epic, game-changing drought in the American heartland beginning 2026 to 2032’s.
- Heat, polar melt, drought and sea level rise begin to surge around 2037.
- The American southwest runs dry, prompting migrations.
- The financial markets become unstable from 2017 to 2019, then crash in 2020. They rally in 2029.
- Floods in Boston, New York and the upper eastern seaboard of the U.S. as early as 2040 causing many to flee those areas.
- Around 2030 we begin to see unity in leadership based on everyone’s well being.
- Presence of a non sectarian world spiritual leader especially felt in 2030-3.
- In the mid to latter part of the century, the Great Lakes region becomes a sparkling jewel center of commerce and prosperity.
- Railroads see a revival.
- Life becomes more rural and peaceful.
- There is a power shift from male to female, from central power to local and grass roots.
- Small family farms are revived, especially in cooler, northern latitudes.
- By 2100 large parts of Florida flooded; in a vision, I saw it as a playground for sailboat enthusiasts.
- There are large-scale mass migrations all over the world, including in the U.S..
DETAILED YEAR BY YEAR VISIONS: Each line is by a different person. We are located in the Northeastern U.S., hence our perspective is from this geographic viewpoint.
2014 (as of June 10 when we did this reading):
- Elephant is in charge – throwing its weight around (Republican party)
- Year of the Tiger, starting strong but getting a bit tired towards the end.
- Air pollution, smog
- War that does not end.
- Stock market volatility
- Reflective year, angry mobs at the beginning
- “No escape from reality” – Queen song
- Bad drought in the American southwest; huge cyclone Texas panhandle; Great Lakes region gets positive attention.
- Sideways landscape with trees (means trees are in trouble)
- Sunshine, optimism, the star, belief in new ideals
- Light – sunrise as more people embrace change.
- An epic storm, many dead; palm trees blowing sideways.
- The frog (in trouble?); stock market volatility
- Reality sets in, unemployment lines, hunger, mass destruction, Detroit fires.
- Guns, shooting
- Stars and lights over the Great Lakes region– a promising part of the U.S. for the future.
- Hunger, poverty
- War, genocide.
- Many storms in the U.S.
- People living on the streets, stray dogs, people looking for food in trash
- Serious market volatility
- “I told you so,” repetition of history, not learning from our mistakes.
- Financial markets crashing
- People selling objects for cash, gold, diamonds not meaning much, fires, drought.
- Tsunami, hurricane, natural disaster
- More market upset, boys walking along road – war?
- State of Texas in crisis
- Heavy rains, mudslides, floods, tornadoes
- Barbed wire fences, borders, jail.
- Cars that drive themselves
- War? Soldiers, guns.
- 2022-24 market volatility.
- Silence, flooding has ceased, people in awe of devastation
- People breaking down borders.
- Europe upset
- Airplanes flying up above, looking for people to rescue
- Survival, disparities more extreme than ever.
- Crying, hungry babies, food rations
- Wind gusts, rain, eruptions, Mother Nature rebelling.
- Railroads revived
- Government controlling masses.
- No electricity, finding light.
- Lazy in the yard, rakes, rural scene, some migration to farming areas
- Drought more severe
- Refugees all over the place, no safe haven.
- People coming together out of necessity to survive.
- Market extremes
- Peace pigeon
- Mustaches in fashion.
- Awakening from bad dream
- Men in life vests doing work. Is this a scene from a flood?
- Power shifts flip.
- Two women running for president
- Women in power.
- Stock market goes up, up, up
- War breaks out.
- Arguing about new structures, people resistant to new way
- Women continue to dominate.
- Roller coaster economy
- Righteous man in robes preaching on hillside.
- Crimes, military governments fall, few are safe
- Leader emerges, unity, not centered on greed.
- Success of round-table discussion.
- People migrating, like a biblical exodus.
- Tibet – Dalai Lama
- World leaders come together to step up, make decisions
- Barren land; Afghanistan
- Right wing powers lose control
- Positive changes, growth and light.
- Man and dog by big river.
- Purple flags swaying, Tibet
- New generation- technology
- Importance of China
- Women recaps from 2029
- Pacific Rim the focus of attention
- Tom Sawyer images
- Problem with trees, need for trees that can survive
- Chance to recover.
2050: Greenland turning green
2051: Black cloud around the U.S. Capitol, as if the U.S. central government is disconnected from the rest of the country.
2058: Small boat filled with people, some armed, crossing body of water
2068: Mushroom shaped cloud – (nuclear explosion to block heat from sun?)
2070-80: Peaceful scene of village in forested mountain region. Homes high in the mountains. Look like tree houses. Looks like ancient Japan
2100: Large parts of Florida are flooded, becoming a popular place for sailboating.
How to turn this information into an opportunity. People react to climate change predictions in different ways. Some of us feel powerless to do anything about it, become paralyzed, and, understandably, bury our heads in the sand. Others, however, are transforming these painful feelings into a new relationship to nature based in wonder and gratitude. At the moment we wake up to what we may be losing, we see our world with new eyes. We see the miracle of an interconnected living breathing whole that is our mother. In an attempt to live more in sync with nature, people are changing their lives in positive ways–eating more locally, living more sustainably, and practicing a grateful awareness of our exquisite world. It is this sense of connection with the natural world that will move us into a new paradigm of life sustaining living.