If we know the southern hemisphere is going to suffer more from climate change than the northern hemisphere, the question is: what are we going to do about it?
Dr Parag Khanna has been tackling that particular question. Named one of Esquire’s 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century, and featured in WIRED magazine’s Smart List, he is my guest today on Inside Ideas. And in his new book: MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us, the best-selling author explores who the winners and losers might be in the climate geography lottery, and whether there is a way everyone can walk away with the winning ticket.
He writes about four possible scenarios in the book, each depicting a different future for the world.
“One scenario is what I call regional fortresses, where the northern continents – North America, Europe, North East Asia, these are regions that are rich, stable, secure – they invest in their own sustainability. They share some technology with poorer regions but they don’t actually allow a lot of migration. It’s kind of like the present, extrapolated into the future.”
He continued: “Then there are another couple of scenarios I fleshed out call the new middle ages and barbarians at the gate, where you have very little sustainability, and uncontrolled migration – either a little or a lot but the bottom line is its violent, it’s not done sustainably and you can have resource conflicts, water wars and that kind of thing so it’s kind of a hunter gatherer, geopolitical anarchical kind of world. The final scenario and the one that I hope resonates most of all with people is what I call Northern Lights and in this fourth scenario you have a world where you have a relocation of population that are vulnerable areas, where we do a lot of technology transfer to allow vulnerable populations to do their own localised agriculture more efficiently, and provide them with water desalination, solar power, renewable energy technologies but, where we need to we relocate hundreds of millions if not billions of people to stable climate resilient areas in the northern hemisphere, but we do so sustainably. We build new settlements that are also circular with renewable power, hydroponic agriculture, waste water treatment, rain water collection, all of these things so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past in terms of mass urbanisation. So the Northern Lights scenario is unfortunately only one out of four scenarios in the book and it’s not necessarily the most likely one but it’s the one that I think we should aspire to.”
He added: “This is fundamentally a book about geography, like all my other books. It’s not about one geography but geographies of resources, people, borders and infrastructure, bringing those together in a dynamic way that actually benefits us.”
Dr Khanna, the founder and managing partner of FutureMap, a data and scenario based strategic advisory firm, believes a spirit of inaction could hobble efforts to realise the Norther Lights scenario.
“Inertia is the most powerful force really. Inertia is a negative force, it holds us back, it prevents us from changing things,” he said. “But right now we live in a time of the greatest possible misalignment of geography, of where our resources are, and the geography of where people are and what stands in the way, is the geography of borders and politics and we need to reconcile these geographies.”
I am delighted to welcome Dr Khanna back on to the show to learn more about his vision for how these challenges can be overcome.