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Alternative Climate Scenarios 2040: Technological Fix

Author

Totti Könnölä

Aug 30, 2022

This autumn experts are developing alternative climate scenarios as part of a foresight project that helps prepare the 2nd Strategic Plan 2024-2027 of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for R&I. The project is conducted by the “Foresight on Demand” Consortium on behalf of the European Commission, DG RTD. In a Deep Dive area “Climate change and R&I: from social change to geoengineering”, Prof. Benjamin Sovacool, together with the other members of the expert team, are developing, among others, this 'technological fix' scenario.

Get involved, comment on the scenario and relate the scenario to recent developments!

Scenario dimensions

Strong global governance; Sustainable lifestyles; Open to risk-taking; Weak activism


Impacts and risk areas[1]

Although Europe has banded together via the European Commission as well as coordination involving coalitions of individual countries, climate change continues to ravage the continent in 2040 as global warming has reached 2oC above pre-industrial levels. Storm surge and flooding have inundated large parts of the Netherlands and other low-lying parts of Western Europe, and the Arctic parts of Russia, Norway, Finland, and Sweden continually see numerous glacial lake outburst floods and the advanced melting of permafrost, some of which have incurred billions of dollars of damages, such as the famous 2029 avalanche and resulting flood that decimated large parts of Rundvassbreen, an outlet glacier of Blåmannsisen and one from Flatbreen, an outlet glacier of Jostedalsbreen, and the permanent closure of the Trans-Siberian railway. Severe drought has also affected crops severely with Greek olive farmers, French winemakers, and Spanish vegetable growers all seeing record high rates of crop losses, fires, and unemployment. Heat waves continue to constrain nuclear power generation in France and curtail hydroelectricity generation in Norway, Eastern Europe, and Iceland, due to unexpected melting of snowpack and seasonal alterations in river flow and precipitation patterns. For the first time ever, London faced a sever water shortage in 2039 due to unusually warm temperatures and the complete draining of the Thames River, which ran dry for four months. European leaders plan to meet in 2040 to discuss a “Common Treaty for Climate Refugees,” estimated to surpass 100 million in 2035. The European Fuel Poverty Observatory also estimates than 40% of households across the continent are either in severe or chronic energy poverty.


Practices and technologies[2]

Europe remains a hub of hopeful innovation and technical fixes to these challenges, with scores of notable inventions patented and commercialized over the past two decades. French biologist Jean-Luc Picard famously developed his drought resistant treatment for agricultural production in 2031, one that entered into widespread use within the sector by 2035. Artificial meat and advancements in other cultured products have buttressed large changes in diet, with 40% of Western Europe now self-identifying as either vegetarian or vegan. Six of Europe’s largest offshore wind farms as well as seventeen nuclear power plants (expected to retire in the 2020s) were instead given license extensions and now power the four largest desalination facilities in the world, supplying water to one-third of continental Europe and (via a transboundary sharing agreement) Israel. The European Space Agency also committed €1 trillion to deploy an Interplanetary Sun Shield at the LaGrange Point between the Earth and Sun, with construction already occurring in high orbit and completion of a moon colony (which will provide materials, robotics, and resources for the Shield) expected to occur by 2042. The Sun Shield is competing with an American proposal to deploy a Dyson Dot also at the same La Grange point, with construction commencing in 2044. In the Mediterranean, localized deployment of cloud brightening and coastal afforestation have begun to regenerate and restore degraded seascapes and marine areas. Hydrogen has achieved widespread use within industry, and 98% of Europe’s passenger car fleet is now fully battery electric. Marine permaculture, especially seaweed farming, is widespread off the coast of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland and Greenland.


Demographics, economy and governance[3]

Europe remains a global leader in climate governance, surpassing the United States in 2028 as President of the World Bank and becoming the premier negotiator for climate mitigation thereafter. The landmark 2031 Treaty between the EU-China pledges to cut emissions by 90% by 2040, well before China’s Five-Year Plan had initially promised. In return, Europe now has 250 million Chinese migrants who work on green technology and clean industrial systems, notably solar energy, hydrogen, and batteries. Populations in Europe have therefore begun to rise, due to the influx of immigrants and positive spillover effects of innovation. Crowdsourcing business models have begun to flourish as well, especially among peer-to-peer networks and cooperatives, such as the newly formed Mondragon Energy Cooperative in 2039, which now controls 24% of European electricity supply across seven countries. Innovations have not diffused equally, however, with many youths and students, those having to rent rather than own their homes, and elderly still reliant on fossil fuels or in substandard housing.

Life-styles and activism[4]

Given the severity of highly visible impacts and risk areas, climate change has become a defining local, national, and regional political issue.The Green Party is now the largest single political coalition across Western Europe, following national victories in German, Denmark, and the UK (following a disastrous 20 years of Conservative leadership). Their “Green Vision for Europe” has wide appeal across all constituencies.The election of Prime Minister Greta Thunberg to preside over the European Commission has launched a new wave of youth climate activists, including the very influential “Net Zero Now!” organization which has more youth subscribers than the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts combined.The 2037 Carbon Divestment Act, implemented as EC.1031.121, also restricts any financial institution from investing in fossil fuels, an act that resulted in the stranding of more than $110 trillion in fossil fuel assets around the world.


[1] https://www.climatechangepost.com/netherlands/coastal-floods/ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/252101036_Glacier_Lake_Outburst_Floods_in_Norway_2001_-_2009 https://edition.cnn.com/videos/weather/2022/08/17/historic-drought-dries-europe-rivers-orig-aw.cnn https://21stcenturychallenges.org/the-thames-barrier/#:~:text=The%20barrier%20was%20originally%20designed,on%20protecting%20London%20from%20flooding https://energy.ec.europa.eu/topics/markets-and-consumers/energy-consumer-rights/energy-poverty_en#:~:text=guarantee%20our%20health.-,Energy%20poverty%20in%20the%20EU,the%20EU%20and%20its%20members [2] https://www.newstatesman.com/environment/food-farming/2022/06/world-drought-europes-farmers-heatwaves-climate https://www.greenqueen.com.hk/europe-over-20-now-flexitarian-number-of-vegans-doubles-according-to-new-study/#:~:text=1.,representing%203.2%25%20of%20the%20population. https://ec.europa.eu/research-and-innovation/en/horizon-magazine/quenching-worlds-thirst-grid-water-desalination#:~:text=Once%20only%20an%20issue%20in,connection%20to%20the%20electricity%20grid. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032122001046 https://www.sams.ac.uk/facilities/seaweed-farms/

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/clima/news-your-voice/news/joint-press-communique-following-second-eu-china-high-level-environment-and-climate-dialogue-2021-10-10_en#:~:text=In%20a%20high%2Dlevel%20meeting,between%20China%20and%20the%20EU. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8730528 https://www.energy-storage.news/the-three-things-the-us-needs-to-catch-up-with-europes-battery-gigafactory-charge/ https://www.mondragon-corporation.com/en/about-us/

[4] https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/eu.html https://www.unicef.org/stories/young-climate-activists-demand-action-inspire-hope https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/socialpolicy/2019/10/28/the-greta-generation-the-rise-of-youth-activism-for-climate-change/ https://gofossilfree.org/europe/ https://unfccc.int/news/divestment-movement-takes-step-forward-in-eu


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