average temperatures have risen by 2°C
At the Copenhagen
Summit in 2009, a rise of 2°C was agreed as the maximum "safe"
limit for global warming. In the early 2040s, this danger point is passed.* This occurs despite a plunge in crude oil production – CO2 emissions
from past decades are yet to have their full effect on the climate system,* while other hydrocarbons (such as coal and "unconventional"
oil) saw increased use in the years following peak oil. Although a transition
to clean energy is now being achieved, global warming remains a deadly
threat to civilisation. From this point onwards, any further increase
in temperature will lead to runaway positive feedbacks, exceeding man's
ability to control them.
be noted that 2°C is merely the average global increase.
In some regions – such as the poles – the rise has been substantially
greater already. The Arctic is now completely free of ice for several
weeks a year,* while Greenland has reached
a tipping point of irreversible melting.
the arid conditions have continued to get worse. They are now spreading into the Southeastern
states, where soybean production has been slashed by half, and a similar
yield decrease has occurred for soyghum.* Meanwhile, invasive species of insects are migrating to new latitudes,
driven by warmer 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 substantial impact
on water supplies. Major rivers such as 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. Tourism has been decimated, with skiing impossible in many areas.
America, a similar situation has occurred. Melting glaciers in the Andes
have caused water shortages for tens of millions of people.* 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.*
In Asia too,
there is a water crisis. Pakistan's major rivers – the Indus, Jhelum and
Chenab – are delivering less than half of their historic supply. The nuclear-armed
country is now at war with neighbouring India, following conflicts over
resources.* Monsoon rainfalls have become
increasingly unpredictable in the region, while sea level rises are causing
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 most of the continent seeing 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: most of
the island nation has been washed off the face of the Earth, leaving its
people effectively homeless.*
Pravdica | Dreamstime.com
Orbital solar power is commercially feasible
After many years 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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