Rising seas, droughts, monster storms, the spread and possible mutation of germs and disease carrying insects, and even extinction of animals in man’s food chain all are terrible, but not one of these, individually, will end civilization. Most can be mitigated by moving to safer areas or by spending money on sea walls, desalination, water pipelines, medical research, and the like. What will kill civilization is the fugitive issue. Rising seas, droughts, and monster storms will create more fugitives than civilization can handle.
Consider the following scenario. You and your wife own and run a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. When you started and built it, in your twenties and early thirties, it was successful. But now, with many people leaving Florida, it has been losing money. You are now in your forties and have three kids and a dog you all love. You also have an old mother living nearby in a luxury condominium you bought her. Your home has a mortgage for far more than you could sell the house for. Your once-sizeable nest-egg is greatly depleted. The U.S. economy is in a major recession.
An approaching hurricane is staying off shore, but there is a full moon at high tide. Your home is hurricane-proofed and, you believe, well-insured, as is your business. The winds and rains are harmless, but water seeps up, out of the floor, covering the entire lower-level of your house to a depth greater than two feet. This is because the bedrock below South Florida is porous limestone and water rises to match the tidal and surge levels of the sea. Sea walls and dikes cannot help Florida. You lose power, and no water comes into your faucets and toilets. Your smart phones still work, temporarily, and from these you learn that both water and power will be out a week, maybe two.
Many of your possessions are destroyed but because your house, mother’s condo, and business are not-quite total losses, your insurance pays you very little. People are leaving Florida in droves. Even if you could afford to restore your restaurant, you would have no customers. You decide to cash out your life savings and move north, leaving your real estate and business behind, unsold. Relatives in the north do not have space or money to take you in. There are no trucks or motor homes you can rent or buy at any price in South Florida.
You drive north in a stuffed SUV. The highways have a lot of traffic and abandoned vehicles. Greatly overpriced vehicle refueling/recharging stations have lines that last for hours. Motels are either closed or show no vacancies. Large hotel chains in major cities report week-long waiting lists for all but the most expensive rooms. You head for Atlanta, where you’ve heard there is a settlement for refugees that provides food, water, and assistance at finding permanent homes and jobs.
Check-in staff at the refugee settlement tells you no dogs are allowed. You are given directions to a kennel where you can board your dog at exorbitant rates or have it euthanized, also for a considerable fee. You expect to find work and housing quickly so you agree to board the dog. You have to pay to park your car. In the camp, you are assigned to share a double-wide trailer that has twelve bunk beds, three functioning electrical outlets, one toilet, one sink, and one shower. Water and electricity are severely rationed. You must stand in line for two small packages per person per day of cold, prepared meals. With your family of six, you share the trailer with a family of four and a young couple. Inside, there is barely room to move and you hang sheets for privacy. You are told you should consider yourselves lucky. Other settlements have tents with dirt floors, no showers, and less access to electricity.
You spend your first day in camp filling out forms. You are put on waiting lists for jobs and housing. Both children of the family of four are coughing terribly, with sneezing and runny noses. They are two and five. You expect to spend your second day in Atlanta looking for work. Instead, you sit with your mother, who is suddenly sick, waiting in line for the camp physician. You are told she has a bad case of influenza. The next day her flu has become pneumonia. You have excellent insurance, but Atlanta’s hospitals have no free beds. After waiting two days, your mother is moved to the understaffed camp infirmary, which has the bare minimum of diagnostic equipment and is lacking in many medications. Two days later, she dies. The younger child of the family of four’s children dies the following day, also from pneumonia, or so the doctor says. Your youngest child also is now sick.
In a neighboring trailer, a father kills his two children and his wife and then himself. Others from other trailers try to convince you to join them rioting at a nearby grocery store. They hope to steal food and persuade the Government to provide more, as camp rations are not nearly enough. You decide not to participate. The riot ends in a bloody battle with police and many of the rioters are killed. There is no increase in food.
From owning your restaurant, you are knowledgeable in the food business, so you volunteer to help with the camp’s meal service. In doing so, you spend less time looking for jobs, but you do it so you can pilfer enough food to keep your own family from starving. Meanwhile your money is running out. You realize there are no jobs and you will never acquire better housing due to the tremendous influx of refugees from around the country. You abandon your dog in nearby woods. You stop paying for your car’s parking space. You expect, soon, to put a bullet through your own head, if you don’t die of the various diseases going around the camp first.
The scenario described above will happen unless we stop burning carbon in the immediate future. The United States will have millions of refugees fleeing not just from Florida but from many of our coastal cities. There also will be refugees from droughts in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. The rest of the world will have the same problems. Bangladesh, alone, will spew forth tens of millions of refugees. Cities such as Atlanta, with no drought or sea-level problems of their own, will be overwhelmed with refugees overburdening all attempts at support, and bringing crime, riots, and disease. Eventually, the armed forces will be unable to stop the rioters, and hospitals will not be able to handle the diseases. Power and water will fail because supply will not be able to meet demand. Economies will be in turmoil, and then governments will collapse. This is inevitable unless we stop putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere now. We also have to draw it down from the air. We cannot delay.
I am a novelist, not a climate scientist, nor a refugee expert. I am not saying that what I wrote here will happen exactly as I describe it. But the ideas in this scenario need to be discussed, and I wrote this as a way to open discussion.
Please help me in my personal war against global warming. Friend me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter, and connect with me on LinkedIn. I am writing a powerful global warming novel. I need a great publishing company to market it and print a lot of copies. Publishers look at an author's social media numbers as a sign of potential buyers. So please Friend me, Follow me, and Connect with me. Consider it as doing a small part in saving humanity from the ravages of global warming. Thanks.