What Climate Change Will Look Like 35 Years From Now

Science fiction no more
Science fiction no more
Marcelo Leite


SAO PAULO â€" It's the future here, writing with a warning to brace yourself. How I would love to tell you that in 35 years you'll be able to go back in time, fix your mistakes and change history. Sadly, you won't be able to do that.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is in just six months for you. I can tell you now that the summit won't be worth the effort or the cost. Consider this your preview: They'll reach a deal to contain greenhouse gas emissions, which is reasonable considering the political conditions of your time. But as only the future can tell you, that's insufficient to contain global warming in this century below the critical limit of 2 °Celsius.

I'm talking to you from 2050, and we're already close to breaking that barrier. That's despite the fact that carbon emissions have fallen almost to zero, a feat that owes more to UberTesla than to the targets set out in the São Paulo Protocol of 2020.

The self-driving electric cars that entrepreneur Elon Musk launched that same year, after he used the profits from his Powerwall home batteries to acquire Uber, brought traffic jams, public transport and air pollution to an end.

The fossil fuel industry, both car manufacturers and oil companies, went bust. The 2029 crash destroyed the industrial world as you know it, but it created a new, better one. Joseph Schumpeter would have loved to see wind turbines and solar panels spreading all over the world like cars did in the 20th century.

But life in megacities has worsened dramatically. In Brazil, heat waves are turning São Paulo into an inferno three or four times every year, with temperatures above 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit). These can last for weeks on end, but they're nothing compared to the tragedy of New Delhi, which is now a ghost town like many others across India after monsoon rains disappeared.

The people of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte have adapted to the extreme heat. Even in lower middle-class suburbs, the humming sound of air conditioners is constant, and the power shortages that once plagued these urban regions stopped after the government decided to subsidize solar panels and lithium batteries with the ProAir program.

The biggest problem is the lack of water, especially in São Paulo. The Cantareira supply system, the city's biggest, never recovered the levels it enjoyed in the early 21st century. There are hopes that the forest replanting in the Piracicaba, Capivari and Jundiaí river basins, initiated a decade ago, will bring some relief, but that won't be before 2070 at best. And that's only if drought doesn't become permanent, like El Niño.

If you could only imagine what the situation is going to be in 2050, you would do a lot more for your children and grandchildren.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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