The Worst Could Soon Be Upon Us

It’s almost 7 AM and the morning shift is arriving at the hospital emergency room. The departing doctors, nurses, therapists and lab technicians are completely exhausted but have to brief the incoming staff on the most critical patients. For months now, the beds have been full and overflowing. Cots jam the hallways and on the third floor ICU, there’s only enough lifesaving equipment for the most critically ill patients. Like other medical centers a gruesome triage is in place to provide the limited amount of equipment to the patients that have the best chance of surviving. 

In overcrowded metropolitan areas, especially in the Northeast, there has been a mass exodus.  Old and young have fled to smaller cities and towns in the South, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.  When they arrive, there are simply not enough emergency shelters.  After months without work and almost no emergency services, many families have become homeless, running short of cash, not knowing where to turn for help or safety, something they believed could only happened to others. 

The refugee centers are occupied way beyond capacity.  Armed guards stand at the entrances. ‘All Full’ signs are posted. Another harrowing night for thousands sleeping in cars or on the sides of roads, in parks and public lands, some on the ground with blankets, others in tents. Many towns have formed armed vigilante groups that keep the refugees away to protect their own families and properties. 

Schools and public places, retails stores and restaurants have shuttered.

Most government agencies barely operate with a few employees.    

Food is in short supply.  Almost all busses and trains running between cities have shut down service. 

Coronavirus? No, it’s the year 2063 and the Climate Crisis has kicked in with a fury. Coastal cities in the Northeast and Gulf states have been inundated with rising seas and storm surge.  What were once one-hundred-year-storms that flooded coastal cities are now every year events.  Oceans have risen 7 feet since 2030. Millions have abandoned their flooded neighborhoods. Most electric power plants along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have ceased to function from damaging water intrusion. A few businesses and factories have electric power but it’s sporadic. 

The unbearably hot temperatures have made heat stroke the number one killer. Emergency rooms and hospital wards are filled with victims of heat stroke, dehydration and malnutrition.  Suicides, homicides, cases of domestic violence are sharply on the rise. The old and infirm are the most vulnerable to the heat, but as temperatures have continued to rise across the country, even the young and healthy are being carried into the overflowing emergency facilities.  Anyone who works out of doors, on farms, or construction, in factories without air conditioning, are exposed to the danger of overheating and suffering severe illness and death.  

Fresh water has been compromised by saltwater intrusion into the groundwater in coastal zones. There is a critical shortage of water for homes and businesses, to irrigate farms, feed livestock and to operate factories. Water reservoirs along major rivers are at a critically low level. Big farmers fight over water allocation with residential communities. There is simply not enough precious water to supply everyone.  

Most coastal roads, rail lines and airports have been damaged beyond service from flooding. In many areas of the country, including the farm belt states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Indiana, harvests have been reduced by almost 60 percent from severe droughts and massive floods.

The nation’s population has grown to 400 million.  It’s getting very hard to find fresh food, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and meat. When they are stocked on the grocery shelves, exorbitant prices place them out of reach for most families. 

Many commercial and residential properties in flooded coastal cities and towns have been simply abandoned. Property taxes are no longer paid, and the local tax base has been severely eroded. Even in cities further inland where the sea has not encroached, there is insufficient public tax revenue to adequately run schools, hospitals and basic government services.  Public works and law enforcement have been reduced to skeleton crews.       

It was predicted for decades that rising oceans and coastal flooding would be one of the major destructive effects of climate change. The flooding has been catastrophic, but what many didn’t understand was the direct threat to health from dangerously high temperatures across most regions of the country. It was caused from the heat trapping greenhouse effect caused by excessive carbon emissions from human activity.    

Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont had the greatest temperature increase of 3 to 4 degrees from 1895 to 2020. In the Southwest and South, during that same time period, Las Vegas saw a temperature increase of 5.6 degrees, El Paso, 4.7, Tucson, 4.5 and McAllen, Texas, 4 degrees.  Boise had an increase of 3.8,  Helena, Montana saw a 4 degree rise and Minneapolis, 3.7 degrees.

Since 2020 to the present year, 2063, temperatures in most areas of the country have increased a frightening 3 to 4 degrees on top of the records set in 2020.  When those high temperatures combine with humidity above 65 percent, a dangerous heat index, or apparent temperature of 104 degrees is reached. The body’s natural cooling system can no longer function. With dangerously high humidity, sweat does not evaporate from the skin.  The body cannot cool down.  That’s when permanent neurological damage can occur, organ failure and even death.  

The first line of treatment in emergency rooms are huge tanks of ice water where dozens of heat stroke patients sit in the swirling water up to their necks with hope that their temperature can be brought down quickly enough to avoid bodily systems shutting down.  

Public cooling centers, nicknamed igloos, have been set up across Florida, in several states along the Gulf and cities in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. They are all running at full capacity. Hundreds of Florida’s coastal and inland cities have been abandoned as families flee north.

Another measurement of the extreme heat is the number of days in a year that a given city will have temperatures above 90 degrees. In many regions the number of days above 90 degrees has doubled and tripled. 

Since 2050 the number of days in the year the heat index has reached the dangerous 104-degree mark has shot up in many cities, especially in the hot and humid South. Last year, 2062, in New Orleans , there were 95 days above 104 degrees, in Brownsville, 100, Orlando 109 and in Miami, 128 days.

Many factories, farms and construction projects had long ago changed to only night shifts so workers out doors could bear the extreme heat. But now even night time temperatures are barely cooling down. Temperatures above 90 degrees most of the night are common in many areas of the country, especially the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southwest.  The  human body can no longer cool down at night and recover from the extreme day time temperatures.

The Pacific Northwest, Washington and Oregon and the upper Midwest states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, where temperatures are usually cooler, are favored destinations of the millions of climate refugees. The temporary housing and trailers for school classrooms have long since exceeded their capacity. Their emergency services for food and health care have been overwhelmed.  Some states, including Wisconsin and Oregon have taken the extreme measure to block their borders, the police turning thousands of cars away on the interstate as if they were defending a separate sovereign country. Federal authorities, the military and national guard have been taxed to their limits and are loath to force the states to remove their border controls.  In 2057 Canada closed it southern border with the US, allowing only the shipment of goods. 

Millions of climate refugees from Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, especially in low-lying coastal zones have fled inland to higher ground in their own countries where they hope to find shelter, adequate food and personal security.   

Many have tried to migrate to other countries. They arrived by the hundreds of thousands to Europe and North America, then by the millions. Most are turned away at the borders, but many find ways to illegally cross borders at night with backpacks, holding children in their arms as they traverse the hills and rivers. Some are forcibly deported. Those who are not caught often live as homeless, others working in the shadow economy in menial low-paying jobs in teeming cities.

There are slum cities of climate refugees across Africa, Latin America’s highland regions and in Southeast Asia. Those who made it into European counties live in squalor in sprawling camps of hundreds of thousands.  Police are afraid to enter the camps that are run by the refugees or in some cases by organized criminal syndicates. 

The internal climate refugees in the US are at times treated with less fear and contempt than foreign refugees. But public services are overwhelmed and simply cannot provide any more aid to the sheer number of desperate families.      

Conservative politicians in the US have converted en mass to the environmental movement. They claim that they have always championed the environment and fought hard to mitigate climate change. They ignore the decades in the 1980’s through the 2040’s when the fossil fuel lobby owned them. They  forget that climate scientists were ringing alarm bells that unless carbon emissions were brought down by forty five percent by 2030 and net zero by 2050 the earth would enter a period of  an uncontrolled upward spiral of climate change. 

But conservative elected officials still appeal to their base on a number of issues, by stoking fear of climate refugees, many who are Americans of color and so many from Latin America, Asia and Africa. This has created a new racial divide similar to the ugly Trump years. But in the 2050’s it had gone way beyond race and nationality. Sharp divisions between the poor on one side and the middle class and rich on the other, have been fueled by the ugly rhetoric of politicians on the right.   

Many of the privileged have moved to secure, walled compounds with luxury residences that are protected by small private armies.  The rich have the resources to buy large quantities of food and luxury goods. They set up their own clinics and hospitals inside the compounds where only their members receive care. The  children of the wealthy attend private schools within the enclosed communities and socialize in the luxurious, exclusive athletic and social clubs. They seldom travel outside, and only with armed escorts by land or private aircraft to other safe and guarded locations, whether for work or relaxation.

The Exxon Mobile building in Houston was looted in 2035 by angry mobs because of the company’s major contribution to carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect. Their decades-long public misinformation campaign to sow doubt that carbon contributes to climate change had become a national scandal. Exxon along with the other oil majors have seen their senior executives tried and convicted in criminal courts for intentional mass genocide from climate change. Federal and state government across the country has been passing an avalanche of legislation to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas-burning power plants.  Renewable electricity generation by wind and solar has replaced almost all of the coal and natural gas plants.  Diesel and gas burning cars and trucks including semi-tractor trailers have been phased out almost entirely and replaced by electric vehicles.  It’s too dangerous to drive a gas or diesel truck or car through many communities where assaults on the drivers have become commonplace.    

As a result of unpreparedness, incompetence and poor decision-making by the Trump White House, the coronavirus epidemic raged across the country beginning in 2020 for seventeen months, infecting three million and killing almost one hundred and fifty thousand.   

Many deaths could have been prevented had the federal government moved swiftly when the virus infections first broke out in China, then spread to Seattle and New York. The Trump administration failed to require mandatory social distancing of the country’s entire population and didn’t compel private industry to quickly produce enough virus testing kits and ventilators. After four months when tens of thousands died, the rate of infections would decrease for a month or two. Then as mandatory social distancing was relaxed, it would rage again with new outbreaks. This lasted through the end  of 2021 when at last there were almost no new infections or deaths.  By 2024 the economy began to recover, and most Americans were able to return to work.  At last the two-year nightmare was behind the nation. There was little consolation that Trump died of the virus, Joe Biden came down with a serious case, survived but missed the 2020 election.  Bernie Sanders ran against Mike Pence and Sanders won the presidency.

There is one major difference between the Climate Crisis that has gripped the country and the world since mid-century and the coronavirus epidemic of 2020-2021.  The coronavirus as deadly as it was, lasted only two years and three more for the economy to begin to rebound. The Climate Crisis by comparison will never end. It will only become more severe each year for many thousands of years into the  future. The dangerous tipping point of irreversible climate change was reached by 2030 when a cascade of destructive forces was unleashed, each one contributing to the next. Rising temperatures caused a more rapid melting of large portions of the world’s great ice sheets in the mountain glaciers and Greenland and Antarctica.  As the ice melted, its reflective capacity was replaced by the heat-absorbing ground. This caused the atmosphere to heat even faster, triggering an accelerated rate of loss of the great ice sheets. Sea levels will continue to rise for hundreds and thousands of years as the ice continues to melt.

Excessive atmospheric heat creates drought conditions on most continents and wildfires have sharply reduced the number of square miles of the world’s great tropical forests that are the green lungs of the planet. The shrunken forests can no longer remove large amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing even further to the greenhouse effect and the Climate Crisis.   

Vast areas of frozen ground in the Arctic, Alaska, and Siberia, known as permafrost, has thawed. In what are now miles of wet bogs, the peat and organic material that have been frozen for millions of years are decomposing and releasing enormous quantities of carbon into the atmosphere that remains there for thousands of years.

Greta Thunberg became the Secretary General of the United Nations in 2060 at age fifty-seven.  She has been a powerful voice of reason, doing her utmost to unite many countries to fund and provide programs to mitigate and adapt to the destructive effects of the Climate Crisis. She has been a positive force helping millions of climate refugees to migrate and resettle. Thunberg has led the way to the goal of achieving almost one hundred percent renewables in electric power generation, even in poorer counties and transitioning away from carbon-fueled land transportation, aircraft and shipping.  Secretary Thunberg’s  leadership and her ability to educate people around the world has instilled hope. She has led many countries to unite behind programs to avoid even more catastrophic effects climate change as we approach the 22nd century.  

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