The Dead Sea is drying up
The Dead Sea is a unique geological feature. Located between Israel and Jordan, it is the lowest point on Earth. With an extremely high content of mineral salts (20%), over six times greater than any ocean, it is completely devoid of life, except for extremophile bacteria. The salts are so concentrated that swimmers can float like corks, without using a life vest. The water of the sea is also purported to relieve pain and treat several different skin conditions and arthritis. For these reasons, it has been a world famous tourist attraction.
By the late 2040s, however, the sea has almost vanished. Its main supply of water – the River Jordan to the north – has seen extensive diversions for industry, agriculture and domestic use. This has reduced its flow to just a trickle by the time it reaches the Dead Sea, far from adequate to replace the water lost by evaporation.
For decades, the Dead Sea has plummeted in depth. The problem is compounded by rising global temperatures, which have accelerated the evaporation of water, and the growing population in the region. By now, little more than a pond remains. This is despite efforts to divert water from the Mediterranean and nearby Red Sea.*
The effects of heat stress on labour capacity have doubled
In the early years of the 21st century, peak summer months of heat stress were cutting human labour capacity to around 90 percent of its full potential. By the middle of the century, this figure has dropped to 80 percent.* Rising global temperatures are now having a major impact on those who work outside, or in hot environments – particularly in mid-latitude and tropical regions like South and East Asia, North America and Australia. This trend has occurred despite heavy reductions in man-made CO2 emissions.
Although robots are now handling many human roles, it nevertheless remains a serious issue for the economy and society in general. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and other conditions are increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Many sports and leisure activities are being abandoned due to excess heat and humidity, with people forced to spend more and more time indoors. This has boosted the appeal of virtual reality to replace the physical world.
Credit: U.S. Army
The Fukushima disaster is cleaned up
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a catastrophic failure at a Japanese nuclear power station on 11th March 2011,* resulting in a meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors. It occurred when the plant was struck by a tsunami triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake. Substantial amounts of radioactive materials began to leak, creating the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second (after Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Although no short term radiation exposure fatalities were reported, some 300,000 people were forced to evacuate the area, nearly 16,000 died in the earthquake and tsunami, and 1,600 deaths resulted from evacuation conditions, such as living in temporary housing and hospital closures. The disaster prompted some countries to re-evaluate their policies on nuclear energy. Germany and Switzerland, for example, abandoned this technology altogether, shutting down their last remaining plants in 2022 and 2034, respectively.
In the wake of the plant meltdowns, a huge cleanup and decommissioning process was initiated. This presented enormous challenges, with massive amounts of radioactive water spilling out – some finding its way into the Pacific (along with debris*) and even reaching as far as the U.S. West Coast.* Methods used to contain this water included a frozen underground barrier, with coolant fed into pipes at -30°C (-22°F). Robots were required in some parts of the facility, as radiation levels were often too high for humans. In 2014, it was estimated that sealing every reactor off would cost tens of billions of dollars, taking 30-40 years. Sure enough, by the end of the 2040s, this operation is finally reaching its conclusion.*
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1 Dead Sea may dry out completely by 2050, The Times of India:
Accessed 9th October 2010.
2 New NOAA study estimates future loss of labor capacity as climate warms, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
Accessed 3rd March 2013.
3 See 2011.
5 Japan Fukushima Radiation Reaching West Coast?, Guardian Liberty Voice:
Accessed 14th July 2014.
6 "Obviously, it's difficult to say for sure how many years it's going to take … at the moment we're talking about 30 or 40 years."
See Doubts over ice wall to keep Fukushima safe from damaged nuclear reactors, The Guardian:
Accessed 14th July 2014.