Photo by John Stocker
“Hi mom, hi dad. It’s us, the kids born in 2022, writing to you from 2095 when we are 73 – the global life expectancy when we arrived. Back then, you wondered which of the IPCC AR6’s long-term (2080-2100) climate scenarios had come to pass. Well, we can tell you now: it wasn’t the ‘very low’ emissions scenario – our generation had a good laugh over that one! Nor was it the ‘low,’ ‘medium,’ or ‘high emissions’ version. No, it turned out to be the IPCC’s worst-case: the hellish ‘very-high emissions, scenario’ for 2080-2100 (SSP5-8.5 in AR6 parlance, 1135 ppm CO2). It’s not the zombie apocalypse, mom, but it’s bad.
“Why hellish? Well, that’s a long story, and we want you to know we don’t really blame you and our grandparents for… for… well, anyway, here’s what it’s like.
“Let’s begin with the obvious: it’s hot. We’ve hit the report’s best estimate of +3.5˚C (+6.39˚F) over the period ending in 2014. Warm places like southern Florida, where you retired, your comfy 28°C (82°F) summers are now a balmy 31.5˚C (≈88˚F). Not so bad, you say?”
Photo by Modic / Unsplash
“Well, a global review from your era showed the “risk of mortality increased by between 1% and 3%” every time the thermometer rose by one degree C (in about half the locations studied). At +4.4˚C… well, you do the math. And we get nine or ten annual heat waves for every one you had, ramping temps as high as 6.6 °C on top of the baseline temps, lasting far longer, and more widespread than before. Arctic temps were already topping 38˚C (100˚F) when that report was written: just imagine where they are now. (Marine heat waves also rose, mom and dad.
“A 2008 study predicted that “days over 90 degrees in Chicago could reach as many as 80 in one year and the number of days over 100 degrees could be close to 30.” Chicago last had a 100˚ day back before we were born in 2012 (4x) and one projection suggested 2100 Chicago summers would most resemble those of Mesquite, Texas back when we were young. Mom, dad, they do.
Sorry to say our old house in Miami Beach flooded many times before it washed away. Back in 2021 the city demanded that all seawalls, public and private, be raised to a minimum 5’7” (1.73 m) above mean sea level. Under ‘very-high emissions though,’ that level rose between 0.98–3.88 m, an astronomical 3.21 ft–6.17 ft. With or without a smidgeon of storm surge, that is well over mean and still rising. Buh-bye family beach house.”
Photo by Paul Sequeira. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Gimme a Polar Cocktail, Hold the Ice… Hold the Bears
“One cool thing: we cruised to the North Pole! With no late-summer ice in the Arctic Ocean anymore – no albedo effect need apply – we can sail right over it. True, the polar bears are all gone, but I guess you had to power your F150s somehow.
“Those who could have built homes in Greenland’s forests – yes, there are forests growing there now. The glaciers and permafrost are nearly gone. Even in your day, Greenland was melting fast and, to prepare, they were building green hydro-power plants and facilities to accommodate major population growth. Thank goodness someone was thinking ahead!”
“As we passed, the last remaining walruses in Baffin Bay were hauled up on shore. It’s likely they’ll be gone soon too, with no sea ice to rest and mate on. “Coming home, we sailed south but, I’m sorry to say, the coral reefs you used to snorkel in are gone, bleached, dead. I hate to tell you, but all the coral reefs have died: heated, acidified, and bleached by excessive CO2.”
Geirangerfjord, Norway. Photo by Maia Habegger / Unsplash
The Land “Of course, Greenland couldn’t take everyone – and wouldn’t if they could. Your progeny has spent their adult lives fleeing from one type of climate pressure or another, searching for a safe, stable home. Rising seas alone turned more than 2 billion of us into refugees but that’s not all. Remember when New York Magazine predicted that, though 1% of the world was just barely habitable due to high temps, that number would probably rise to about 17% when we grew up? Nailed it. We’ve been squeezed.
“Right around our first birthday, the U.N. reported that wildfires numbers were expected to increase by about 50% from the already prolific burns of the 2020s. Any walk in the northern summer woods is an invitation to get singed.”
Seeking: Higher, Firmer, Cooler, Safer, Calmer, Fertile, Fire-Free, Cyclone- and Drought-Proof Ground
“As you recall, the years up to 2016 saw the forcible displacement of some 6.5 million people for a variety of reasons but, “by 2060, about 1.4 billion people could be climate change refugees,” a 2017 paper predicted. Finding a new home wasn’t and just a matter of higher ground. As that same paper noted, Homes that weren’t either too hot, too wet, or too dry, subject to frequent powerful hurricanes, or in the paths of regular F4 tornadoes, have been hard to find. Dodging mudslides, heatwaves, and competition from multitudes also seeking a safe place, is tough.
Elders in China. Image by 志涛 张 (Zhi Tao Zhang). Source: Wikimedia Commons
“Where did all those people come from? Well, everywhere – no place was entirely free of climate change’s impacts. But an awful lot of them came from Africa. The population of that continent has ballooned from the 1.13 billion of your time to a seething mass of 3.07 billion (The Lancet) to 4.2 billion (Johns Hopkins). Where did we all go? Well, when 48 Pacific island nations were submerged toward the end of the century, Pacific nations didn’t want to take us in. We have to laugh when we remember that, in your day,, countries like New Zealand began issuing 100 climate-refugee visas annually. A hundred! With two billion of us climate migrants… again, do the math.
A Whole New World
“There have been some political realignments too, guys, some changes to the old atlas. As the U.N. predicted in the 2020s, “in the worst case, the governments of the nations most affected by climate change could topple as whole regions devolve into war.” We mentioned, did we not, that the worst case has come to pass? Topple they did.
Three Squares? Not Like They Used to Be
“Your progeny is hungry too. We don’t have meals like the ones you served when we were little, in 2030 or so, when there were only about 8 billion mouths to feed. Today, there are 11.2 billion and about 80% more food is needed to sustain them and, as the researchers at Cornell pointed out, “Feeding that population will require more arable land even as swelling oceans consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas, driving people to seek new places to dwell.”
Woman selling food in Hội An, Vietnam. Photo by Nam Hoang / Unsplash
“As you, mom, read in Sustainability R.O.I.’s November ’21 issue, many plant species were not adapted to higher temperatures, saltier soils, drier decades, and higher yields. The past 70 years were spent trying to save all we could, and to breed varieties that can withstand conditions as they are here in 2095.”
Bigger is Not Always Better
“This is largely due to population certainly. But humans have also continued enlarging, and that means more calories. Studies in your day showed that “between 1975 and 2014, the average adult grew 1.3 percent taller and 14 percent heavier, triggering a 6.1 percent uptick in energy consumption… daily calorie counts rose” accordingly, from 2,465 to 2,615. This trend continued apace and yet, as the oceans rose, and brining, drought, fire, and metropolitan encroachment combined to shrink the fields. We lost around 13.4 million km2 (5.2 million miles2) of prime, multiple-crop farmland (Africa and Brazil were particularly hard hit) and we’ve been compelled to completely alter the food supply.
If it Won’t Moo… Is It Still Stew?
“Meats are all syntho now, lab grown from cells. Grazing requires too much time, feed, water, and land. The old National Institutes of Health (NIH) noted in 2022, “shortage of protein sources such as meat, dairy, and plant protein would be limited not only to developing countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, but can also become a problem in more advanced countries in the future.” That put some unusual things on the menu: bugs, for one; microorganisms for another. As it turned out in very high, “the answer to humankind’s challenge to meet the need of protein,” turned out to be “various microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, algae, and fungi.”
“Vegetable acreage, too, was untenable. These days plant foods are farmed vertically. Between the forest of windmills, solar panels, and water condensers, every rooftop is covered with box farms, while wherever front-and-back yards remain, lawns have been replaced with food gardens and fruit trees.
Galoshes, No / Waders, Yes.
“By the way, the report said that for every 1˚C of warming, ‘extreme daily precipitation events’ will increase 7%under SSP5-8.5. Sure enough, a jump of >21% has made wading boots standard equipment where loafers were normal before. Cities have had to completely revamp their drainage systems. Only the molds are truly happy.”
Woman in Uganda. Photo by Colby Ray / Unsplash
“As we’re sure you were aware mom, when you, and papa were raising us, cities were growing quickly. As farmlands began either drying up or being submerged, there was massive migration to the cities. Urban populations swelled beyond anything previously seen. Kinshasa, Kenya, has more than 84 million people. New York has more than 30 million inhabitants. Khartoum has over 56 million, Manila almost 40. And, with 67 million in Mumbai, India, and a staggering 88 million in Lagos, Nigeria, cities are strained like never before. Life in places so crowded has been a real challenge for us. We miss that backyard, mom.”
“Look, mom, dad, it is what it is. We’ve been adapting, innovating, and learning to manage with less. But it is pretty bleak compared with what we remember from the 2020s, folks. Lawns. Picket fences. Oceans of grain in the heartlands. Miles of waterfront which knew its place and rarely encroached. Fresh meats and food aplenty. Billions fewer people and most living in the lands of their ancestors, just as we all used to live with you… back in the day.”
“We wish this note could have gone back in time, far enough for you to change the course of climate change before the worst came to pass. (Sigh).”
Your kids in 2095
 Note: this article is written ‘as if’ the very-high-emissions scenario SSP5-8.5 had happened.
All predictions are based on cited sources, however which of the IPCC’s scenarios will obtain is yet to be determined
 Relative to period 1995–2014, IPCC AR6 Summary for Policy Makers, p25
 IPCC AR6 Summary for Policy Makers, p22
 IPCC AR6 Summary for Policy Makers, p25
 Estimates, for purposes of this story
 Estimates, for purposes of this story
 All population numbers are 2022 estimates by Sustainability Today, Ontario Tech University