environment | July 29, 2013

A Changing World: Climate Speaker Laurence C. Smith On Human Migration

What if one day your entire neighborhood, nay, your entire city suddenly became inhospitable? The idea of "forbidden zones" has been a part of science fiction for years. Environment speaker Laurence C. Smith, however, foresees massive global changes that could drastically change population patterns. In Forbes this week, the prominent UCLA Climate Scientist forecast some possible scenarios that would alter life as we know it.

  • Trade Disruptions/Collapse of "Virtual Water" Supplies: Water-rich locations in the world currently supply more arid and semi-arid regions with fruits and vegetables that cannot be grown in drier conditions. This is what is referred to as the "virtual water trade." And, as Smith predicts, "without the virtual water trade, Southern California and the Middle East would empty out and Iowa and The Ukraine would become packed with people.” People will start leaving these water-scarce cities even more rapidly if fossil fuel alternatives cannot be developed.

  • Nuclear War: The only purely environmental disaster to make a location unlivable would be a nuclear war, Smith argues. The Indian subcontinent is arguably the most likely region to go nuclear.

  • Coastal Forbidden Zones: People living along coastlines reside in areas that are under threat from "rising sea levels; hurricanes; ground that’s subsiding and compacting; as well as eroding coastlines," he says He predicts relocation away from these areas.

  • Ocean "Dead Zones": The oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide. This can have dramatic implications on the entire food chain. Further, the loss of oxygen in the lakes (anoxia) has devastating effects on our water supply.

  • Novel Climate Increases: Regional climates are shifting to conditions never before seen in history. “It’s happening extremely fast,” Smith says. “These [novel climates] are going to spread across wide areas of the tropics and the extinctions could be tremendous. Everything in these regions could die off.”

Laurence C. Smith has written extensively about projections for the future, specifically, on the massive changes afoot for the northern part of the planet. He is the author of The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilizations Northern Future and has published over 70 articles. In his keynotes, he shows audiences a hard-hitting, but not entirely pessimistic, view of what the future has in store.