average temperatures have risen by 2°C
At the UN Climate Change Conference of 2009, a rise of 2°C was agreed as the maximum "safe"
limit for the global average temperature, beyond which it would start to become uncontrollable and catastrophic. In the early 2040s, this danger point is passed.* This occurs despite the ongoing decline in fossil fuel production, since emissions
from earlier decades are yet to have their full effect on the climate system.* In other words, while a transition
to clean energy is being achieved, global warming remains a deadly
threat to civilisation. The cumulative impact of greenhouse gas emissions is enormous, with hundreds of gigatons requiring sequestration from the atmosphere and oceans.
be noted that 2°C is merely the average global increase.
In some regions, such as the poles, the rise has been far greater already. The Arctic is now completely free of sea ice for several
weeks a year,* while Greenland will soon be approaching
a tipping point of irreversible melting.
the arid conditions in the Southwest have continued to worsen. They are now spreading to Southeastern
states, where soybean production has been slashed by half, and a similar
yield decrease has occurred for sorghum.* Meanwhile, invasive species of insects are migrating to new latitudes,
driven by the increasing temperatures. Bark beetles, for example, are moving north
and killing off huge areas of forest that provide food to grizzly bears
and other fauna.
the Alps are becoming largely devoid of snow, for the first time in millions
of years.* Having served a role as the
"water towers of Europe", this is having a serious impact
on water supplies. Major rivers, like the Rhine, Rhone and Danube, have
until now relied on snow and glacial melt from these mountains. Switzerland
is being especially hard hit, with much of its electricity based on hydroelectric
power. In addition, record heatwaves are causing gigantic wildfires the
likes of which have never been experienced before. The Mediterranean has
lost a fifth of its rainfall and now has an additional six weeks of heatwave
conditions each year. At the foot of the Alps, rockfalls triggered by
melting permafrost have caused widespread destruction to villages and
towns. With skiing impossible in many areas, tourism is being decimated.
America, a similar situation has occurred. Melting glaciers in the Andes Mountains have led to water shortages for tens of millions of people, resulting in large-scale displacements.* These refugee movements are now a major issue for the region. In Columbia, there
has been a marked decline in coffee production – one of the country's
main exports – accounting for a significant percentage of world harvests.*
Asia too has a water crisis. Pakistan's major rivers – the Indus, Jhelum and
Chenab – are delivering under half their historic supply. The nuclear-armed
country is now at war with neighbouring India, after conflicts over
territory and resources.* Monsoon rainfalls have become
increasingly unpredictable in the region. Meanwhile, sea level rises have caused
further devastation to Bangladesh, which has yet to recover from the disasters
of the 2020s.
regions are disproportionately affected by climate change, and Africa
is the worst-hit location of all. Biblical-scale droughts are becoming
the norm here, with much of the continent hit by catastrophic declines
in agricultural yields. In Mali, three-quarters of the population is starving.*
In the Western
Pacific, Tuvalu is now sharing the same fate as the Maldives: much of
the island nation has been inundated. The evacuations from here and other low-lying regions are now a regular feature on the news.*
Annual deaths from cardiovascular disease have reached negligible levels in the U.S.
Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease affecting the cardiovascular system, principally cardiac disease, vascular diseases of the brain and kidney, and peripheral arterial disease. The causes are diverse but atherosclerosis and/or hypertension are the most common. Additionally, with aging come a number of physiological and morphological changes that alter cardiovascular function and lead to subsequently increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even in healthy asymptomatic individuals.
In the early years of the 21st century, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of mortality worldwide – responsible for nearly 30 percent of total deaths annually. In low- and middle-income countries it was increasing rapidly with four-fifths of cases occurring in those regions.
In high-income nations, however, cardiovascular mortality rates had been falling since the 1970s, due mainly to public health efforts and improved medical treatments. A dramatic reduction in tobacco use (which included smoking bans) – alongside recommended limits on alcohol, fat and sugar intake – as well as recommended minimum daily exercise, were among these prevention methods.
This trend began to accelerate as a range of new treatment options became available in the 2010s and 2020s. These included stem cells* and heart muscle regeneration,* microRNA inhibitors to prevent heart enlargement,* gene therapy and drugs to treat obesity, 3D printed organs and vessels,* nanoparticles and nano-robotics. By the early 2040s, mortality rates for cardiovascular disease have dropped to negligible levels in the U.S. and many other countries.*
Orbital solar power is commercially feasible
After decades of development, energy generated from space-based solar power is now being added to the grid. This concept has been around since the 1970s – but advances in nanotechnology and transmission efficiency have only recently made it both commercially and technically feasible.**
The system involves placing several large satellites into geosynchronous Earth orbit. Initially, this is financed and carried out jointly by government agencies and private corporations. Very large, nanotech-based surfaces on each satellite's solar array (typically 1 to 3 kilometres in size) capture the energy of sunlight, which is then beamed down to Earth via microwaves or lasers. Large collecting dishes on the ground receive the energy and convert it to useable electricity. There are several benefits to this approach:
• Higher collection rate: In space, transmission of solar energy is unaffected by the filtering effects of atmospheric gases. Consequently, collection in orbit is 144% of the maximum attainable on Earth's surface.
• Longer collection period: High above the Earth, orbiting satellites can be exposed to a consistently high degree of solar radiation, generally for 24 hours per day, whereas ground-based panels are restricted to around 12 hours per day at most.
• Elimination of weather concerns: Orbiting satellites reside well outside any atmospheric gases, cloud cover, wind, rain and other potential weather events.
• Elimination of plant and wildlife interference.
• Redirectable power transmission: Satellites can direct power on demand to different surface locations based on geographical baseload or peak load power needs.
The climate benefits from orbital solar power as well, since there are no greenhouse gas emissions (though the energy beamed down to earth is eventually lost as heat). These projects are initially expensive though, due to the hostility of the space environment. Panels require high-strength shielding to protect against space junk* and their huge surface areas can make them vulnerable to incoming debris. Some of the more hi-tech stations feature nanotechnology-based composites that can self-heal. Degradation of the solar panels comes close to making them uneconomical at first, though further advances in technology later solve this issue.
Though far from a perfect beginning, space-based solar power grows to become a hugely successful industry in the late 21st and 22nd century. Satellites also begin to appear in orbit around the Moon and Mars, greatly boosting the energy available on manned bases. It continues to grow around Earth for almost two centuries, until virtually all of the sunlight falling on the planet is being captured and harvested in some way.*
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Supercomputers reach the yottaflop scale
By the early 2040s, the world's most advanced supercomputers have reached the yottaflop scale – a magnitude of processing power that enables a trillion trillion floating-point operations per second. This is 1,000 times faster than a zettaflop machine of 2030 and a million times faster than the exaflop machines of 2019.
In earlier decades, experts had expressed concerns that Moore's Law – the trend of exponentially increasing computer speeds – was beginning to slow. However, these fears proved to be overstated. While it was true that a slowdown occurred in the 2010s, this was only a temporary blip, as new breakthroughs were being achieved in a number of areas. For example, traditional silicon microchips would soon be replaced by a new paradigm in the form of carbon nanotubes, able to be scaled down to even smaller sizes while greatly improving the speed and energy efficiency of transistors.*
Other novel concepts were emerging – such as optical computers,* based on photons instead of electrons, creating a new generation of dramatically cooler and more energy efficient systems. Quantum computers and related technologies** were also providing new ways to overcome barriers to speed and power. All of these innovations paved the way to exaflop, zettaflop and eventually yottaflop computers.
By 2041, the available processing power is sufficient to model thousands of human brains, in real time, at the neuron level. In recent years, the level of simulation model scale has also reached into electrophysiology, with metabolomes and proteomes soon to follow, and the states of protein complexes during the early 2050s.* This produces major insights with regards to the study of mental illness, for example, and other aspects of human neurology.
These advances continue to increase by orders of magnitude through the remainder of the 21st century – culminating in truly accurate brain simulations and mind uploading in the early decades of the 22nd century.