What if?

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For Once a Positive Take on Our Future

It is the year 2030, climate change is well underway, most glaciers in the Alps have melted, summers have become unbearably hot and the Great Barrier Reef has completely bleached. However, since 2019 the world united, led by school children, society underwent a radical awareness. Realizing that the system was rotten and obsolete it organized to change its political leadership and economic system. Despite the late wake-up call the institutions in place worked together and swiftly implemented strategic measures that effectively responded to the climate crisis. So how did it all happen?

Firstly, politicians noticing the shared environmental concern, placed environmentalism at the top of their political agenda. Then realizing that climate change is a national threat each country gave stronger powers to their already existing environmental protection agencies, whilst cutting defense spending to finance the new and improved agencies. These worked to make their institutions fully transparent, forbidding lobbying. Their main focus became to finance huge geoengineering and technology R&D projects. Their goal was now set on climate repair, finding solutions to the damages already committed. Whilst the IPCC used blockchain to keep each country’s research available to all. By 2023, the Dutch EPA had partnered with NASA and together they built a device that could refreeze the poles.

An important change occurred when ecocide was accepted into the Rome Statute of International Crime. This ensured that extensive and deliberate damage to an ecosystem could be a criminal or civil international crime. Various punishments were inserted, and companies could no longer pay meager fines and get away with it. Corporations were held accountable for the pollution emitted, and had to dispose of the garbage they produced themselves. This actually lowered countries’ expenses on garbage disposal by $1 trillion worldwide. This also pushed companies to create biodegradable alternatives and find solutions for CO2 emissions themselves. Some even implemented carbon capture machines whilst they transitioned to cleaner technologies. Now countries and their leaders could be held to trial. To ensure complacency economic sanctions were put in place whilst the trials were in vigor. This deterrence largely quelled deforestation, except for Brazil whose radical leader ended up fleeing his country after the sanctions ignited a coup d’etat.

Furthermore, each government radically changed its tax norms. First carbon taxes were implemented, which further exacerbated companies to find alternatives. Most coal mines closed as the taxes depended on the amount of emissions produced, driving them to bankruptcy. Whilst diesel cars became so expensive that only 10% of the world population could even afford them. On the other hand, renewable energies and green initiatives were given tax cuts and their investors tax deductions. Regenerative farming was given large subsidies, due to its ability to capture carbon, whilst unsustainable cattle ranching and the dairy industry were cut off.

Most importantly both politicians and economists agreed that we must accept ungrowth. Thus, the media promoted this novel notion, and people returned to a more serene style of living. Companies were no longer expected to constantly grow, and natural resources were no longer extracted at unsustainable rates. Instead the economy became circular. Taking advantage of the products already made and following the ethos “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” With the general acceptance that this was the way forward, most VCs and investors helped these companies flourish, providing them with guidance and consulting, and soon they became larger than Nestlé and Coca Cola. Noticing the competition, large companies followed suit, and even Apple made its entire new line of Macs by buying back outdated iphones.

During the crisis the amazing properties of hemp were uncovered. The year 2022 became known as “the hemp rush” as every industry saw the potential this plant could have. The water-heavy cotton industry crashed, as hemp replaced it as the sustainable textile material. Plastic packaging-already suffering from its massive taxes- disappeared, and in its place hemp plastic rose as its biodegradable alternative. Hemp fuel became the commonplace biofuel whilst hempcrete the most used building material.

The drastic political change meant that all government divested from fossil fuels. Interestingly, banks followed voluntarily. When both cut their funding, fossil fuels were cut off from their blood supply. Some big corps survived due to their early interest in renewables, others were happily forgotten.

The most difficult challenge proved in aviation. A largely subsidized and government funded industry, almost no airline could continue operations. This quickly produced an economic opportunity to find sustainable solutions. By the end of 2022 Elon Musk had partnered with a Japanese seagrass biofuel producer and VirginAtlantic, together they flew the first plane entirely fuelled by biofuel ethanol. This new interest in seagrass meant that many countries quickly planted more, resulting in seagrass becoming the hot commodity – seagrass is also the world’s most effective carbon sink. 

So by 2030 the story of the climate crisis became known as the first time there was true international unity. Driven by the love for their children, the world mobilized and went on strike, forcing politicians to come up with a quick plan. The cross-border threat of climate change implied that international collaboration was needed. This proved vital for the rise of technologies that could recalibre our then fragile climate system. The economy changed, it no longer focused on selling people useless objects, but on creating a closed-loop where everything would be reutilized. Overall the new system effectively responded to climate change, and best of all? Everyone realized that the solutions had been there the whole time just waiting to be unveiled.

By: Isabella Cavalletti

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