When my children grow up, the world they live in is likely be very different from ours. There’s a small chance that humanity will rapidly come to its senses, start massive program of emissions reductions, and avoid the worst climate change scenarios. The Hadley Centre gives us about a 50/50 chance if carbon emissions peak by 2015, and then fall steadily at a rate of 3% per year (They are currently rising by nearly 3% per year). If we manage to pull this off, and also win the 50/50 bet, our children and grandchildren will ask us how the hell we managed it.

If we can’t stop emissions growth in the next five years, things look much more grim. Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is the picture painted by the New Scientist: How to survive the coming century: a world that is 4°C warmer, 90% of the human population wiped out, the rest relocated to dense cities in Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. Uninhabitable deserts across the subtropics. Virtually no life in the oceans. And that’s the good part. The New Scientist article glosses over the climate wars that are almost certain if large parts of the world become uninhabitable. If they survive, our children will demand to know what the hell we were doing: we knew it was coming, we knew how bad it would be, and still we did almost nothing to prevent it.

What did you do in the war?When my kids ask me these questions in decades to come, I need to be ready with an answer. I’d like to say that I did everything I could possibly do. I’d like to say that what I did was effective. And I’d like to be able to say that I made a difference.


  1. Great post Steve

  2. And the next question comes from the children “What will be my role in the climate wars?”

  3. This is a great website even for a non-CS person. I coordinate a Sustainability Minor at the U of Minnesota and we believe in infusing sustainability (how we sustain ourselves into the future) into all disciplines.

    My CS son, age 16, has been bugging the people I work with to give him a “climate change” or “fuel balance” model (2 different ideas) that he could make into a video game in python or Java. He’s been programming lots of RPG, logic and other games over the years (just got a 5 on AP Computer Science exam :)) and I’ve been pushing him to find a socially beneficial application. I’ve sent him these links… hope he’ll participate if you don’t mind.

  4. This is EXACTLY how i felt after reading that New Scientist article – I show the map to anyone who has a minute! Have you read Kyoto2 by Oliver Tickell – proposes a sensible and workable solution. If we can reduce CFCs and HFCs with the Montreal Protocol why not apply the same principles to carbon . . .

  5. This post scared the hell out of me. We need more people writing like you. Clearly, our governments do not understand the severity of the situation the way you do. Either that, or they just don’t want to understand it.

  6. Drew Dellinger has made an eloquent video poem


    “What did you do, once you knew?”

  7. This has really inspired me a lot. Thanks for writing this one Steve.
    Best Wishes on your effors.
    -from India.

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