In the latest New Scientist, I have a review of a new book by climatologist Laurence C. Smith of UCLA, which is entitled The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future. I have to say, it’s really a tour de force. Smith argues that four megatrends–climate change, population growth, globalization, and resource demand–are setting up a world that looks like this:
…many of the world’s 9 billion-plus people will swelter in teeming, dirty and often corruption-plagued megacities like Lagos, Dhaka and Karachi. Others will be stealing water from farms to supply unsustainable cities like Los Angeles. Meanwhile, people in the NORCs [Northern Rim Countries] are living like kings. The leaders in quality of life will be towns you’ve never heard of, like Churchill in Manitoba and Iqaluit in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. (Buy your real estate now!)
Who are the NORCs, and why will they be winners? To quote my review again:
There are 8 NORCs: the US, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (Greenland), Norway and Iceland. In Smith’s view, they will be the grand beneficiaries of dramatic Arctic warming that will create a more hospitable far-northern climate, open up valuable resources (especially natural gas) for extraction, drive economic growth (including a boom in tourism) and trigger northward population flows.
To hear Smith tell it, the NORC cup runneth over. Much of the Earth will grow increasingly parched, but the already plentiful freshwater resources of the NORCs will only increase as global warming boosts northern precipitation. And while much of the Earth will see continuing population explosions and, in some places, struggles for food, the NORCs have sparsely populated northern fringes and will see their agricultural productivity rise.
What do you think? Is that the world in 2050? Can Smith really safely predict such a thing?