2071 and climate change: will human ingenuity save the day?

Last night I saw the final performance of 2071 at The Royal Court Theatre in London. This was a presentation by UCL’s professor of climate change, Chris Rapley, who was Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Director of the British Antarctic Survey and director of the Science Museum. He called the piece 2071 because in 2071 his granddaughter will be the age he is now. He wonders what sort of world she will live in, whether it will be inhabitable at all.
It was a compelling talk basically about how the world’s dependence on fossil fuels has disrupted global carbon cycles, accelerating global warming and potentially threatening the survival of human civilisation – certainly as it is today. Professor Rapley talked about his research in the polar regions and how the ice cap is melting. He recalled holding a piece of millennia-old ice core from Antarctica and as it melted in his hand breathing the air that was millions of years old. As this was a theatre performance, rather than a lecture, I was expecting a bit more drama rather than what was essentially a TED talk against a background of some albeit beautiful computer assisted design and musical score – or an audience Q&A afterwards. 2071 has understandably received mixed reviews. Nonetheless it was food for thought.
Last year I went to Arctic Lapland – to see the Northern Lights – and stayed at the Ice Hotel in Sweden. The nearest airport to the Ice Hotel is Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost town, 145km within the Arctic Circle. Kiruna is a mining town which is physically being moved – the entire town is being demolished and rebuilt 3km to the east – in order to avoid it being swallowed up by the activities of Sweden’s biggest iron ore mine which have expanded to reach 1km below Kiruna, undermining its foundations. Kiruna was was built in 1900 to support the mine, and its relationship with the mine has been described as symbiotic. In Kiruna man’s activity is literally destroying his habitat. But Kiruna can be relocated. The Ice Hotel is rebuilt every year.
We don’t have the option of moving away from the climate change issue and simply relocating or rebuilding elsewhere. But we can adapt. Professor Rapley’s presentation highlighted how we often don’t realise the need to do so until it is too late. His message is that governments need to stop talking about climate change and work together to find ways of doing something about it. He hopes that human ingenuity will save the day. His granddaughter wants to be an engineer so that she can look for a solution.

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