Will Japan be around in the year 2500?
Two recent newspaper articles about climate change in the far distant future, say 2500 or so, (titled, respectively, “How much more proof is needed for people to act?” and “Ignoring the future — the psychology of denial”) emphasized the importance of facing major issues that will have an impact on the future of the human species.
Climate change is indeed an issue and the Japanese people will also be on the front lines of the battle. Why? Because Japan will not exist as a country by the year 2500. Everyone there will have migrated north to Russia and Alaska.
Despite most observers’ belief that solutions lie in mitigation, 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 denialists like former Alaskan Gov Sarah Palin in the U.S. — that 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 and sea levels will rise considerably and millions, even billions, of people from the tropical and temperate zones will be forced to migrate in search of food, fuel and shelter.
By the year 2500, all the islands of Japan will be largely uninhabited, except for a few stragglers eking out a subsistence life in Hokkaido’s mountains. The rest of the population will have migrated north to Russia’s northern coast or northern parts of Alaska and Canada to find safe harbor from the devastating impact of global warming.
Okay, how do I know all this, you ask? I don’t know. I am just saying that we all must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
By the year 2500, most likely, Japanese people en masse will have left the country for faraway northern regions to find shelter in U.N.-funded climate refuges in places such as Russia, Canada and Alaska. Israeli climate refugees will join millions of others from India, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. It won’t be a pretty picture.
When I asked a professor at National Taiwan University in Taipei if this was a possible future scenario for Japan and other nations in Asia some 500 years from now, he said it was very possible, and that these issues needed to be addressed now, if only as a thought exercise, and even if it all sounded like a science fiction movie script. When I asked acclaimed British scientist James Lovelock if such a scenario for Japan was likely, he said to me in an e-mail: “It may very well happen, yes.”
We humans cannot engineer our way out of global warming, although scientists who believe in geo-engineering have offered theories on how to do it. There are no easy fixes. Humankind has pumped too many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the result of the industrial revolution that gave us trains, planes, automobiles and much more, enabling us to live comfortable and trendy lives — and now there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Earth cannot recover.
Japan, like the rest of the world, is doomed to a bleak future full of billions of climate refugees seeking shelter in the far north, and in places like New Zealand, Tasmania and Antarctica in the far south.
Meetings in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro and at the U.N. in New York 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.
For the next 100 to 200 years or so, life will go on as normal in the Japanese archipelago in terms of climate change and global warming issues. There is nothing to worry about now. But in the next 500 years, according to Lovelock and other scientists who are not afraid to think outside the box and push the envelope, things are going to get bad. Unspeakably bad.
Those of us who are alive today won’t suffer, and the next few generations will be fine, too. The big trouble will probably start around 2200 — and last for some 300 years or so.
By 2500, the nation of Japan will be history, as will all the nations of Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.
We are entering uncharted waters, and as the waters rise and the temperatures go up, 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.
Danny Bloom is a writer based in Taiwan where he blogs daily about climate change and global warming at his “Northwardho” blog.