This is the story of High Wycombe's future between 2010 and 2100. In this section we build that roadmap year by year and put it in the context of potential world events. These are potential outcomes but we have no crystal ball. It has been fun since we started this work in 2009 to see how reality has caught up with our vision. You can contribute to this section by dropping us a line about what you think will happen in the future of your Town:
Commentary: the climate change scenario represented here suggests a 3 to 4 oC rise in UK average temperatures by 2100. Most of this rise is inevitable based upon historical greenhouse gas emissions. We might be able to stop it going further. Within the next 100 hundred years we assume no dramatic tipping point. After that all bets are off. Changes in the Gulf Stream, caused by global warming, may depress the temperature change locally around the British Isles but this will only push the temperature gain somewhere else creating a tidal wave of refugees heading north. We assume that scarcity & high price will force decarbonisation upon the economy of High Wycombe.
High Wycombe 2015
The Wycombe District Council, with help from Transition Town High Wycombe, releases its Carbon Reduction Framework. Planning restrictions on Renewable Energy schemes in Conservation areas are lifted. The Council approve a list of over 50 makes and models of biomass boiler for use in Wycombe's Smoke Control Zone. Transition Town High Wycombe launches the Town's first "Local Food Guide" in 2010 to great acclaim. (It is published to this day and is now in its 50th edition.) A system of Master Gardeners is established so that older gardeners can pass on their knowledge to young people in trade for the extra food that is grown. Regular classes in organic and "no-dig" gardening are held at the Transition Allotment. The first "Green Fair" is held on the Rye. The "Wycombe Home Power & Warmth" club is launched in 2010 giving all residents up to a 20% discount off Solar Panels. The library starts lending energy monitors to the public in 2010 so that they can measure and reduce their home energy usage. As people learn to live with the collapse of global Financial Institutions High Wycombe TTHW sets up the Town's first Credit Union. A Community Orchard and Allotment open on a site near the Rye.
Wycombe District Council performs first detailed energy audit for all its activities and buildings after the release of the 2011 Carbon Reduction Framework. Rigorous energy efficiency and conservation programme introduced. Public awareness campaign started with the appointment of voluntary local energy wardens for every street and neighbourhood. Teams of volunteers wander the streets in Winter with Thermal Imaging cameras finding out who needs more insulation. The volunteers then work with the householders to improve their homes. The new Environment Centre opens on a permanent site in the town centre. Most of its "trade" and funding comes in via its Energy Shop. The Energy Shop has been setup to help townsfolk change their homes to become more energy efficient. Whilst in the shop you can browse in the bookshop or have a meal in the restaurant. It becomes THE place to hang out in the town. The area holds its first "Future Buildings Weekend" where the public got to see inside local homes fitted with the best practice insulation and microgeneration equipment. The event was popular and became an annual event running through until 2030 by which time everyone was living in such homes and it lost relevance. Work starts on local biogas-powered tram lines with extension to Maidenhead. Road building and repairs stop. Recycling-lorries undergo conversion to dual fuel with the intention of using bio-methane. Council attempts first demand-simulation scheme by investing its purchasing power in local biofuel and renewable energy initiatives. Investors flock to the area seeing as the new Renewables Corridor outside of London. Leaflets covering the citizen's responsibilities in the face of Climate Change and Peak Oil drop through all letter boxes. The first biomass-powered District Heating scheme opens in the Hughenden Quarter.
The World 2015
The UK Government launches its "Big Society" idea with "The Future is Local" report from the Commission for Sustainable Development - both in 2010. It marks a paradigm shift in Whitehall thinking. The price of Carbon reaches $80 per tonne. Oil prices spike again to $140 per barrel and never, EVER, drops below $100/barrel. All Airport expansion plans finally scrapped when the Government changes. Sixteen Airlines collapse. Peak Oil enters the Curriculum for all Schoolchildren under the age of 14 in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Comment: International Energy Agency reported this on August 3rd 2009: "There is now a real risk of a crunch in the oil supply after next year when demand picks up because not enough is being done to build up new supplies of oil to compensate for the rapid decline in existing fields." The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it had estimated in 2007....
Note that many of the points raised here by us in 2009 made it into the 2011 Carbon Reduction Framework released by Wycombe District Council. No surprise as Transition Town High Wycombe was consulted during its creation.
High Wycombe 2020
UK Government Carbon Budgets start to take effect. Fuel prices take off. Eleven enormous wind turbines are built on the M40 corridor over-looking the town. All Council and Emergency vehicles converted to use biodiesel from recycled vegetable oils manufactured by the local biofuel refinery. Part of the Rye is converted to a Carp Farm. The new Anaerobic Digestion plant opens in the town converting sewage wastes in to biomethane which is then injected into the town's Gas Mains. The mainline railway line through town is electrified. Programmes to expand cycle path network adopted. Town Centre Congestion Charge introduced. First Biogas Digester project opened to feed the new Biogas buses & trams. Council introduces first local and organic food targets. The annual Motor Show on the Rye is scrapped. The Green Fair takes its place. The rooftops of the town start to glisten with five-hundred new Solar Thermal & photovoltaic Panels. There is steady demand for Photovoltaics encouraged by the bulk-buying scheme, the Credit Union. Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive. Information about renewable energy and Transition is available from mobile exhibitions run by volunteers. These exhibitions spring up in Churches, Community Halls, Schools, street corners, The Eden Centre and at outdoor fairs. WDC Planning and Sustainability Department adopt the Passivhaus standard for all new build homes. All home improvements with a carbon footprint (such as extension) will be granted if (and only if) the householder offsets the additional carbon with efficiency gains elsewhere in the house. Bucks "New" University expands into courses for sustainable building, food production, local economics and renewable energy. New plans for local democracy drawn up to an initially lukewarm reception. Town suffers its first flash flood. After three days of heavy rain one warm November torrents of water washed away gardens, homes and people. The A40 get shut for three days in order for the debris of people's lives to be removed. Town grinds to a halt. No buses, no cars. Marlow gets it worse - flooding right up to the top of the High Street wiping out all economic activity in the retail zone for six months. Shops run short of food. The first economic effect of Climate Change are realised. It was a warning for all of us. More people got the message.
The World 2020
The UK Government (in cooperation with several other EU States) introduces the first of its "Emergency Climate Shock" Bills as announced in the new Government's Queen's Speech: the first is personal Carbon Caps. Each citizen is granted a quota or 'carbon allowance'. The allowance can be bought and sold. As the price of Carbon shoots up cash floods into the hands of the poor with low-carbon lives. This and the warmer winters offset fuel poverty. Suddenly flying becomes very expensive. Flash floods sweep Europe for three years in a row. Crop failures become a fact of life. Official Date of Peak Oil recognised as 2016. Colin Campbell says it's "now just water under the bridge". Carbon Price tops $150 per tonne with Oil now at $200 per barrel. Global agreement is reached on a new form of GDP Measurement that includes an environmental scorecard for sustainable development. For the first time human well-being is measured as a sign of economic progress. Suddenly we realised we had been getting poorer for thirty years, not richer. Fuel Rationing starts across the UK. Water Rationing starts in the US and China. Several Coal-fired Power Stations are completed with pioneering Carbon Capture and Sequestration ("CCS") technologies.
Commentary: In June 2010 at least 15 people died when "unprecedented" flash-flooding hit parts of south-eastern France, submerging streets, sweeping away cars and forcing people to take refuge on the roofs of their houses. In the worst flooding the region saw since 1827, authorities struggled to cope with the speed at which water levels rose. "In 24 hours, we had 350mm of water," said local official Olivier de Mazière. Local official Corinne Orzechowski spoke of "a devastated town centre, extremely battered, with car wrecks in the streets, roads that have fallen in, houses ripped open, infrastructure damaged". The majority of casualties are thought to have died while trapped in their cars.
To our surprise the incoming Conservative/Lib-Dem Coalition launched a new set of "happiness" measurements in 2010 a year after we originally wrote this section of High Wycombe's story.
Some people think that we want a Wind Farm on Abbey Barn Lane. The WDC Carbon Reduction Framework names the eleven large wind turbines as being a suitable number for the Chilterns outside of the AONB. We know that the future energy sources for the town will move a lot closer to home and become renewable. The days of outsourcing your electricity needs to some dirty coal-fired power station hundreds of miles away will be consigned to history. If not a Wind Farm then what? If not the Abbey Barn area then where? You chose.
High Wycombe 2025
The Council finally come around to the idea of formally embracing Transition (17 years after the first Council - Somerset - had already done so) after sudden spike in food prices. An appreciation that the Town is overly vulnerable to world events slowly sinks in. The letters page of the local newspaper bristles with the letters from angry local people demanding action - mostly the same people who a few years before demanded that nothing ever change. The first Transition Mayor is voted in. WDC formally adopts the TTHW's Energy Descent Plan but starts crash programme to switch over to using CHP (Combined Heat Power) in all its buildings against the advice of the plan. Part of the Rye is ploughed up for a Community Supported Agriculture scheme to the howls of anguish of local environmentalists and community groups. The Transition Team were over-joyed. Twenty Anaerobic Digesters are commissioned through the Wycombe District. Some are now solely supplying the transport sector. All Buses have, by now, switched to locally-produced biofuels or biogas. CSA Farmers' Markets start to be established at new local hubs within the Town rather than just the Town Centre. Oil Depletion Protocol Adopted by the Town. 60% of the Town's Food Supplies are now sourced from within 20 miles. Council now committed to get people out of their cars "at all costs". Local Currency introduced by the Town's Community Bank. More and more Wind Farms come on tap around the area and Totteridge becomes the first pioneer of an entirely local electricity distribution network. The Council starts experiments in community democracy. Record drought hits town destroying crops and garden produce. First Climate Change refugees trickle into town.
The World 2025
Food riot in London's Trafalgar Square. Britain's new Green Government leaves the WTO. Global Meat Consumption drops dramatically as scarcity forces prices up several thousand percent. Most of us only ever enjoy a meat dish on special occasions. Carbon Price tops $300 per tonne with Oil at $1000 per barrel.
Fuel rationing becomes joined by food rationing.
Commentary: This section is designed to show how Transition is at odds with traditional 'environmentalism'. Do not confuse the two. The plan to turn the Rye into a Farm has aroused interest - people have interpreted this as being "too radical". We remind you that these are not 'campaign promises' of the Transition Movement. The need to turn public parks into vegetable patches has already occurred during the "Dig for Victory" campaigns of the Second World War. It was a response to genuine food supply problems. Until 1927 The Rye was used by herds of dairy cows who used to make their own way up Easton Street and the High Street to local dairies for milking. When the Supermarket shelves are groaning under the weight of food it is easy to believe that the Rye is simply a place to walk the dog or feed the Swans. It will be so much more. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
Throughout this story we speculate about the influx of climate refugees into the town and what effect it will have upon our culture. We are not suggesting that enormous squatter camps of poor people from third world countries are about to be setup here. In fact we are speculating that there will be a lot of new faces from Europe, North America and Australia. The IPCC predicted that "By the 2080's, many millions more people than today are projected to experience floods every year due to sea-level rise. The numbers affected will be the largest in the densely populated and low-lying megadeltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable. Climate Change over the next century is likely to adversely affect hundreds of millions of people through increased coastal flooding." A recent Disaster Report by the IRC (International Red Cross) found that 5,000 new environmental refugees are being created every day. The number has increased 65 times since the 1970s - from 275,000 to 18 million per year. The former Director of UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) predicted that by 2010 the number of people on the move escaping the effects of "creeping environmental destruction" will reach 50 million. The IPCC predicted this number would be 150 million by 2050. In China the Gobi Desert is growing by 10,000 km2 per year. Environmental refugees now outnumber those from conflicts.
Work by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in February 2011 found most migrants were likely to move to other rural areas or local towns on a temporary basis. Other work by the UNHCR in 2009 also suggested that "[M]ost people will seek shelter in their own countries" so it is by no means clear how climate-related migration will effect Britain. Read more in "In Search of Shelter - Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement". Neither the UN nor IIED discount the idea that mass migration may happen but fear that "alarmist predictions will backfire and result in policies that marginalise the poorest and most vulnerable groups". Climate refugees will be created - that much is known - but advisory groups don't wish to create undue alarm lest it proves counter-productive. Hence their conservatism. Nothing in these reports suggests any happy endings. We should be cautious.
High Wycombe 2030
WDC launches local "Dig for Victory" campaign as the money for its CHP program dries up. The Wye dries up for two years. Local food production switches to allotments and private gardens. Roadside verges come alive with cabbages. The local Water Utility Companies start shipping thousands of rainwater barrels to local people in desperate bid to stem demand upon drinking water. New Planning Regulations halt all Urban 'sprawl'. Future Housing is along the 'walking community' model only. Up to 20% of the townsfolk are now involved in growing food (up from less than 1% in 2010). Most summers are now long, hot and dry - it's a long growing season but those without water struggle to grow anything. To make it worse, flash flooding now happens every Autumn washing away soil. The solution - more tree planting - everywhere, anywhere. Apple trees are most popular for their blossom, fruit and shade. Open areas start to be dominated by the local tree planting scheme. Many of the trees bear fruit and the town starts to become known as the 'apple town' amongst the locals. A somewhat illicit trade in Cider starts. Despite some hardship the measures are universally popular. The proportion of physically active adults more than doubled and obesity halved. Deaths due to diabetes fall by half, coronary heart disease falls by 35%, death by strokes and similar causes falls by a fifth. Local democracy gets a new lease of life with local communities becoming directly empowered to run their areas as they see fit. The Council admit they no longer have the resources and welcome the ability to delegate to the community. All Council wages now paid in the local Currency to the great dissatisfaction of employees. Climate Change refugees continue to enter the town from North Africa leading to unrest. Letters from far-right Nationalists start to appear in the local paper and their Britain-first views gain support to the horror of many.
The World 2030
USA: 2 million mid-western environmental refugees flood into California. President Bobby Kennedy Jnr proclaims that "America has awoken from its dream". Marshal Law comes into effect in fifteen States. Flying for many now becomes a distant memory as the last domestic carrier folds. RAF abandons all training flights and warns of national security implications due to its inability to fight. The last remaining Coal-fired Power Station with CCS is closed due to their prohibitively high cost in comparison to renewables. General Motors fails - nobody is buying its electric SUVs. Civil disturbances cause by food shortages continue into their 25th year. In the US Ethanol distilleries are broken up by crowds desperate for grain to be returned to the mills. Large numbers of junk food outlets collapse. Doctors in many northern Nations see the obesity epidemic halted and reversed.
However, for many in the majority south there is only starvation. Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit. European Union agrees to a monetary reform experiment whereby Government Borrowing's are converted into Government Credit. Banking sector scaled back severely after years of excess. Taxes on currency trading introduced. Government Credit spent into the economy as Public Credits. Many Banking chains are nationalised and become part of the Post Office. Local currencies become officially recognised. The Transition currency is born. Global Trade moves to a system of carbon-currency trading. The City of London sheds 80% of all staff as trading floors fall silent forever. Rural areas are awash with "City Refugees" looking to invest their money in small farms. Slowly agriculture becomes the dominant industry as land prices sky-rocket. Making money from money passes into history. You make money from food or energy these days. Steady-state economics become the new buzz-phrase in Whitehall. Economics schools churn out graduates who understand the concept of natural limits.
Commentary: The United Kingdom Climate Projections was published in June 2009 and is the most comprehensive report of its kind ever produced. It shows that in the UK we face warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers, with more drought, more intense heat waves and flash flooding. In future, rainfall could significantly decrease in the summer (particularly in the south east) and significantly increase in the winter (particularly in the north west). Heavier winter rainfall is expected to become more frequent, potentially causing flash flooding. The summer heat wave experienced in 2003 is likely to become a normal event by the 2040s or the 2050s. By the 2060s or 2070s, the intense temperatures of 2003 could become the average temperature experienced throughout much of Europe. In June 2007 Sir David King told a committee of MPs that The most serious impact in Britain is flash floods: "The Victorians left us with a drainage infrastructure that is good for soft rain, but with torrential down pours it can't cope." The Environment Agency says that one in six homes in England are in danger of flood. By 2020 the number of homes at significant risk of flooding may double to 800,000. Spending on flood defences needs to double to £1billion a year by 2035. 55% of water treatment works, 14% of electricity infrastructure, 2358 schools and 2363 GPs' surgeries are in flood risk zones.
Severe droughts in the period 2000 to 2010 were already twice as common as they were in 1970. More drought is affecting which crops we can grow effectively. Global demand for food is expected to nearly double by 2050, but lack of water could mean the world produces less food, not more.
Note that the figures for the rising health benefits from the new local economy are actually REAL. They come from Cuba between 1997 and 2002. We do not make this stuff up.
High Wycombe 2035
The Town achieves 80% self sufficiency in basic food stuffs. Most of this is home-grown. We have adapted to grow different kinds of crops around the unpredictable and ever-changing growing seasons. Occasional violent weather destroys crops. After one period of clement weather a bumper crop is realised. The A40 through Town is shut for a street party to celebrate a harvest festival. The closure is so successful it gets extended to a week. How different things are from fifteen years ago when flash-floods shut the town down and threatened the viability of the area. Now the town is becoming more resilient and self-sufficient. Local currency now 70% of all money in circulation. Local economic contraction slows and deflation stops. Home repossessions stop as the Community Bank moves home-owners over to local currency mortgages. Local car pooling and simple on-demand taxi systems see limited success. However cycling and walking start to become very popular with most communities now enjoying Clubs for people who want to practice these new hobbies. Every home in the town is now insulated to standards exceeding minimum Building Regulations. A small cottage industry manufacturing Energy Saving Light Bulbs starts in Amersham. Neighbourhood Committees over-see the meeting of energy and food targets. People start to see the community in a new light. There is renewed interest in local forms of entertainment, care for the young and social clubs. The continued trickle of Climate Change refugees, many Australian & American, continues. Political arguments about their welfare continue.
The World 2035
Artic Ice Cap disappears in the Summer. Polar Bears live on though - they are resilient. Global food production slumps as agrochemical prices to soar. Global economy adjusts to sustainable organic farming methods. Large parts of Bangladesh now under water most of the year round. The flow of boat people is reversed as Australians, desperate to abandon their parched homeland, set off in small boats hoping for a new life in south east Asia. Most are held in camps for years awaiting their fate.
High Wycombe 2040
First hydrogen station opens in the town. Essential workers switch to Plug-in Electric Hybrids for travel to rural areas. These are the only cars on the roads. Bus and Tram services are a roaring success with most drivers abandoning their cars for lack of affordable fuel. The local economy holds steady after 15 years of contraction. Local jobs are being created by the Town's ever-expanding community and cooperative Wind Farms. The area's 20th Community Supported Agriculture Farm opens. Most are run by Climate Change refugees from Africa and Australia. Adaptation to the appalling weather continues. Flash floods continue but the inventive use of swales and tree planting keep most of the valuable growing spaces intact. Studies show that the rate of Asthma and Diabetes in the young has fallen to pre-World War 2 levels. Local Health Services move resources away from these diseases in response. Demands on care for the elderly remain static as many senior citizens enjoy a second lease of life as their skills are so much in demand. 50% of all the Town's domestic Heating requirements are now met through various forms of Solar or Biomass (largely wood pellets or wood chip). The remainder comes from Gas but supplies remain insecure. TV watching rates slump as people find themselves too busy digging the garden.
The World 2040
Oil piracy breaks out on the high seas with many of the tanker ships being sold to the highest bidder. Oil trade collapses as most producing nations withhold stock from markets in fear that they won't get paid. Renewable Energy Plants now easily cheaper than any alternative by a factor of two without subsidy. The last Nuclear Power Stations start to be decommissioned. They became so expensive to build that no new ones were built after 2015. Their enormous Government subsidies simply ran out as tax revenues collapse. Renewables dominate World Energy supplies supplying over half of all requirements.
High Wycombe 2045
Closure of the Town's last Petrol pump. Only three filling stations remain open - one selling LPG one selling biodiesel & the final one - hydrogen. The Town wins its first "Britain in Bloom" competition and is voted Britain's favourite place. There was not a lot of competition (maybe Totnes & Lewes). It is the only place in the country where property prices have started to rise. Energy demand actually shows a small increase across the town relieving fears of a wind energy glut. However the price of renewable energy supplies continues to remain static. Some 25 new renewable energy enterprises open across the town. 20% of homes switch from Gas Heating to Electric to make use of the excess in renewable energy supplies. The Town has become rugged and resilient but has yet to face any major shocks - just the year-on-year decline in fossil fuels and reductions of cheap imported food. Still most technology is made over-seas with many items coming from the USA or China.
The World 2045
The success of Transition initiatives around the world serve as a beacon of hope for communities everywhere. However it is too late for many in the majority world, Australia and the mid-west of North America. Tree planting finally outstrips the rate of deforestation. CO2 emissions drop to sustainable levels. Renewable Energy systems now dominate the market with 70% penetration. Fossil Fuel, as an energy system, is now effectively obsolete. It was simply priced out of the market. It's use is now largely restricted to military transport and some shipping.
High Wycombe 2050
Some Fossil Fuel imports are resurrected but flat demand restricts the price. Most of the Town is now getting by on a mixture of biomass, biofuels, biogas, hydrogen and LPG. Renewable energy now accounts for 80% of all domestic heating. A small number of cars are still run by collectors under special license only. Small children see them operate at special "Fossil Fuel Rallies" that come to town during holidays. Most agree they are horrible smelly things. The schools teach about how dangerous they were and about how many children suffered from respiratory diseases. Children regard the car as some Dickensian nightmare. Refugees from North America continue to arrive. Anti-American sentiment is spread by some extremists but the town remains resilient. The views of right-wingers remain those of a minority as the majority do not feel threatened by the influx of new neighbours, most of whom bring useful entrepreneurial skills, new ideas & new money.
The World 2050
The last foreign troops are abandoned in the Middle East. It is too expensive to get them home. They catch a train or stay. All the planet's oil reserves are now in the hands of the Countries in which they lay. Restrictions on military activity discourage further hostilities and oil shipments start again. Exxon and Shell merge only to go bust. BP diversifies completely out of Oil but remains in the Middle East with their advanced solar energy technologies. Islamic Terrorism becomes a thing of the past as new opportunities open up in the local economies of the Middle East. Since most of the foreign troops have left the future is secured. Their young populations feel less threatened and more prosperous.
High Wycombe 2055
Town declares itself 'post-carbon'. It is in the first 100 hundred communities in Britain to formally declare itself so. The townsfolk go crazy for the latest fashion - green roofs. It was found that this spreading mat of greenery up above really helped cut down on the summer heat. Certainly the thousands of mature apple trees offered welcome shade from the summer heat. A heat that now extends well into October and kicks off again in March. Otherwise things seem to be going well for the town. Thousands of home owners install grey-water recycling systems. These capture rain water into large tanks in the attic or buried underground. This is then sucked out again to water the garden, flush the toilet or clean clothes. The massive rise in water rates is a big incentive. Britain is now a lot drier than fifty years before so every drop of water is precious. Climate Change projections tell us that it will only get worse. Air-conditioning has been banned. The ban is widely flouted until the police spot violations by using thermal imaging cameras on a balloon. These cameras become the new GATSO speed cameras for Wycombe's new generation. The fine's are hefty and the police now confiscate any air conditioners they find. To beat the autumn flash-flood season many roads and pavements are flexible and permeable to allow more rain water through. The pace of life slows.
The World 2055
The Ukraine becomes the breadbasket of Europe but yields are often unpredictable causing see-sawing grain prices. Massive and sustained crop failures elsewhere remain a major issue. Everyone eats less or eats local. Much of London's Tube network shuts in summer because it cannot be kept cool. Instead cycle lanes proliferate in every nation's capital. Work starts on a new Thames Barrier whilst the long-delayed Severn Estuary Tidal Power Station opens. We enter the age of electricity as "Fifty Years of Oil Wars" passes into history. Commentators are already declaring it the biggest waste of energy the World has ever seen. Some call it the "Age of Stupid". The Carbon Wars may be over but the era of Climate Change wars was about to begin. Wars broke out in various flash points such as Kashmir or southern Turkey where water became scarce.
High Wycombe 2060
It seems as if things are looking up... The Town enjoys its 45th, and last, Green Fair. Locals now just call it the "Town Fair" as the word "green" has lost all its original meaning. However, just as it looks as if the Transition was complete, the long shadow of events further afield strike deeply. Economies teeter and collapse as they come to the end of their unnatural growth cycle. They simply hit natural limits beyond which growth was not possible. With these collapses the availability of cheap foreign technology suffers. This hits plans to install 20 'dynamic capacitors' in High Wycombe designed to smooth-out variable renewable energy flows. We learn to get by without them. Many technologies, such as mobile phones, become unavailable for a period of around ten years before local alternatives become available - even then they are very expensive. More refugees arrive from North America.
However, far worse was to come. Many with family in India or Pakistan are left in grieving after events there spin rapidly out of control one spring afternoon in 2062. The Town rallies round to help those effected. Since the High Wycombe had started early to restructure its economy (around local food and energy) we rode out the shockwave... The local money system still worked. Children went to school. People to their jobs. The lights stayed on. There was food at the market stalls. Life went on. For us. Others were not so fortunate....
The World 2060
The American Federal Government refuses to follow the Euro-Zone model of Monetary Reform after a rebellion in the Wall Street. So they didn't change. They were left unable to adapt to changing times. Collapse shortly followed. The balanced budget is back in style after 40 year's of hardship as the USA attempted to pay back an unsustainable debt. Finally China foreclosed and the Union broke apart. Chinese markets fell considerably after the near-collapse of the US economy. They had little left to lose. Various American States declare independence from the Federal Government and establish local credit-based currencies. This was a return to how the War of Independence against the British was funded. A flood of Climate Change refugees head north and south out of the former-United States. Mexico and Canada struggle to cope leading to border clashes.
Pakistan and India become awash with Climate Change refugees as the rivers run dry. The last glacier withered to nothing. Events came to a head in the New Year of 2062. Communal and ethnic fighting breaks out along the border area & Kashmir. Many die violently. Many from thirst and starvation. The subcontinent breaks out into factional wars for the last few remaining areas of habitable land. Border disputes escalate. In February 2062 Military rule is declared in India. On March 27th 2062 maverick Indian Army Officers launch a nuclear strike on Karachi and Hyderabad. Pakistan retaliates within two hours with short-range missiles taking out Jodhpur and Ahmadabad. Both Governments collapse, their countries in chaos. People's Republic of China's troops invade from north and threaten nuclear strikes against anyone who gets in their way. Refugees head in all directions. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan close their borders resulting in further fighting. Few refugees make it past Kabul. China, with its own problems, don't allow them north. Western aid efforts are futile so China is left to feed the sub-continent. China, by now, can barely feed itself...
It was a new day.
Commentary: On Tuesday 17th April 2007 the UN Security Council held a day-long debate on the security implications of climate change. Nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan is a well-known Climate-Change-based scenario that Pentagon planners use in strategic security exercises. David King, the UK Government's chief scientific adviser in 2004 claims that climate change is a far greater threat to the security of the world than international terrorism. John Ashton, the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change, stated that "there is every reason to believe that as the 21st century unfolds, the security story will be bound together with climate change." In its 2008 report the Oxford Research Group highlighted the multiple socio-economic disruptions generated by climate change. Over the next decades, the three essential resources for human life will be food, water and energy. Rapid climate change, the peaking of oil and the growth in population makes all of them less secure and will engender extensive refugee movement and civil unrest. In 2007 the UK Ministry of Defence invested £12million in the Hadley Centre to research which areas of the world will undergoes climate stress leading to conflicts. A 2007 report in the US note that "while both the stability of the civil order and its ability to suddenly collapse are prima facie political occurrences, they are almost invariably precipitated by a witches' brew of causal factors, which can include climate or weather stress."
Note 1: The worst effects of Climate Change will not be in High Wycombe. It isn't all about rising sea levels and Polar Bears. The disastrous effects of events half-way around the world will still effect us all. Going post-carbon is a national security issue.
Note 2: After 200 years of Fossil Fuel use, so much of our future Global Warming is already "locked-in" to the system. Whatever we do now - bad things CAN still happen. However we can still save ourselves from the very worse possible outcomes. If we haven't scaled back our fossil fuel usage dramatically by 2025, a brief nuclear exchange will NOT be our worse-case-scenario...
Note 3: We can plan ahead and mitigate risk at International, National and Local level. The situation is not hopeless. We can rebuild our local economies, our local energy and local food systems to insulate ourselves from the shock of war or economic collapse. Our low-carbon economy will, after thirty years, start to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and help avert further strife.
High Wycombe 2065
Wycombe Air Park comes alive again with an Airship Fly-In. It is the idea of a local Australian refugee and entrepreneur. These new solar-powered aerial vehicles were tethered down between rows of potatoes. Visitors took joy-rides to take photo's of this green and pleasant Buckinghamshire Town from the sky. For all the children it is the first time they have ever flown. The Town launches "Transition Pioneer Day" as a town-wide Holiday to be celebrated on the first Monday in August. The Town's first "History of Transition" is written by one of its founder's (now 95 years old and one of only two survivors from the original pioneers). He says "It was a close run thing - it was good we started early, it stopped so much suffering." Many of the young people reading the book are astonished to learn that the 'great transition' was actively opposed by some as the result of "woolly-thinking". His other claim, that back in 2011 local newspapers actually published letters sceptical of man-made Climate Change, were not believed. Several members of the public claimed that Climate Change Denial was a myth and that there was no evidence that it existed here. The argument continued until a historian recovers the letters in local Library archives. Their re-publication shocks the Town. A few cranks maintain that the letters were faked and that Climate Change Denial was just a hoax. Nobody takes them seriously anymore.
A young girl called Rebecca writes a letter to the local newspaper apologising for her Great-Grandfather's Climate Change Denial letters written to the paper sixty years earlier. It sparks a furious row about who should apologise for what. The Newspaper sells lots of copies.
By now the American economic problems and the final Indo-Pakistan war has deeply effected everyone. Everybody knows somebody who died. There is only regret and lingering bitterness. However, fences are soon mended. The last remnants of the old-thinking are finally washed away. The idea that Climate Change is something for the white middle-classes to worry about vanishes. Now it is everyone's responsibility. People genuinely talk openly about how "modern" and "progressive" the High Wycombe district is. Everyone takes credit for the area's growing energy, economic and food self-resilience. We look back upon the last 60 years and wonder what on earth the fuss was all about. The simple need to change seemed so obvious in retrospect. The views of far-right Nationalists fade as their form of polemic seems at odd with this new age of reason. At least in this corner of Buckinghamshire.
The World 2065
Saudi Arabia shuts down Oil Production from its eight largest fields declaring the "Oil Age" closed. The Kingdom now has the world's largest collection of Solar Power Stations distribution power to the Middle East and Asia through super-grids. Scientists tell us that atmospheric CO2 levels have now stabilised and population is now starting to fall back to sustainable levels. However radioactivity from the Indio-Pakistan War can be detected around the globe leaving a long cancer legacy. Two billion displaced people find homes elsewhere and count themselves lucky.
High Wycombe 2100
The district is hot and crowded. It is now far more cosmopolitan. A walk through the town means you can hear a babble of languages and accents - North African, Southern European, American and Australian amongst many others. Some don't live here, many are just tourists from Scotland. There is a new craze in High Wycombe - painting your house white. It is keeping everyone cool now that summer peak temperatures, in the heat-island of the town centre, have reached nearly six degrees hotter than they were in 2010. At midday in the summer the town is deserted as the markets and street-life now kicks off in the late afternoon. The town has a great night-life now as people enjoy walking up and down in the cool night air. Cafe society has broken out. There is just a hint now of how the south of France was some 100 hundred years before. That was before the south of France became like North Africa - hot, dry, arid & depopulated. As town folk look up into the sky through gaps in the expanding canopy of apple trees they see the swooping Red Kits introduced from Spain over one hundred years before. The Chilterns and other places in the UK are now their sole home. All original nesting sites in Europe are now deserted as their older habitats are simply too hot to sustain them there.
The World in 2100
A large refugee camp slowly transitioning, ie, catching up with High Wycombe!