Friday, January 6, 2012

Polar Cities a Haven in Warming World?

Polar Cities a Haven in Warming World?

so asked ANDREW C. REVKIN of THE NEW YORK TIMES on his DOT EARTH BLOG in 2008, writing:

One vision of a “polar city” in an overheated world. -- (Illustration by Deng Cheng-hong) [of Taiwan]

Danny Bloom, a USA freelance writer and editor living in Taiwan, is on a one-man campaign to get people to seriously consider a worst-case prediction of the British chemist and inventor James Lovelock: life in “polar cities” arrayed around the shores of an ice-free Arctic Ocean in a greenhouse-warmed world.

Dr. Lovelock, who in 1972 conceived of Earth’s crust, climate and veneer of life as a unified self-sustaining entity, Gaia, foresees humanity in full pole-bound retreat within a century as areas around the tropics roast — a scenario far outside even the worst-case projections of climate scientists.

After reading a newspaper column in which Dr. Lovelock predicted disastrous warming, Mr. Bloom (a frequent comment poster on Dot Earth) teamed up with Deng Cheng-hong, a Taiwanese artist, and set up Web sites showing designs for self-sufficient Arctic communities.

Mr. Bloom told me his intent was to conduct a thought experiment that might prod people out of their comfort zone on climate — which remains, for many, a someday, somewhere issue. [Ed. note: sci fi author Jim Laughter from Mounds, Oklahoma is also writing a book independently about polar city life in 2080 titled POLAR CITY RED.]

I interviewed Dr. Lovelock two years ago on his dire climate forecast and prescriptions — and also his ultimately optimistic view that humans will muddle through, albeit with a greatly reduced population. There’s a video of my chat with Dr. Lovelock here.

“At six going on eight billion people,” Dr. Lovelock told me, “the idea of any further development is almost obscene. We’ve got to learn how to retreat from the world that we’re in. Planning a good retreat is always a good measure of generalship.”
The retreat, he insists, will be toward the poles. Bloom calls himself  ''James Lovelock's Accidental Student.'' [GOOGLE]

It’s a dubious scenario, particularly on time scales shorter than centuries. But — as we’ve written extensively in recent years — there is already an intensifying push to develop Arctic resources and test shipping routes that could soon become practical should the floating sea ice in the Arctic routinely vanish in summers.

Sensing the shift, the Coast Guard has proposed establishing its first permanent Arctic presence, a helicopter station in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States.

It’s not a stretch to think of Barrow as a hub for expanding commercial fishing and trade through the Bering Strait.

The strategic significance of an opening Arctic recently made the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine, in an article by one of my longtime sources on this issue, Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer who is now a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It is no longer a matter of if, but when, the Arctic Ocean will open to regular marine transportation and exploration of its lucrative natural-resource deposits,” he wrote.
 So even if humanity isn’t driven to Arctic shores by climate calamity at lower latitudes, it’s a sure bet that the far north will be an ever busier place. Urban planners, get out your mukluks.

In the meantime, scientists, marathon runners, and others are already making the North Pole a busy place.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About Dot Earth
By 2050 or so, the human population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life. In Dot Earth, which recently moved from the news side of The Times to the Opinion section, Andrew C. Revkin examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits. Conceived in part with support from a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Dot Earth tracks relevant developments from suburbia to Siberia. The blog is an interactive exploration of trends and ideas with readers and experts.