The future is always changing

Why is it that we usually see the future as something that is forever vaguely distant? About the fact that, unlike the past, which is structured by remembered events in our memory, it is an open, empty number space? 2050. The number of numbers in terms of the future. By 2050 must ... by 2050 we will be ... 1.5 degrees ... Well, there is still time, very far away. On the other hand: Is 1992 far away? That is also 29 years from today. And that was only just now. Bill Clinton was elected, riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, opening of the Franz-Josef-Strauss-Airport.

Second reason for the strange psychological distance: Climate is usually something that happens somewhere else, Greenland, Tuvalu, the Amazon.

Nick Reimer and Toralf Staud have now written a book with which they bring this future very close: They scoured physical studies and research reports, visited several hundred experts from science and practice and implemented their findings into the possible concrete consequences: "Germany 2050 "(Kiepenheuer and Witsch) tells how climate change will change our lives and our everyday lives. Not in Greenland, but here with us. In short: it is better not to buy an attic apartment (too hot), ask yourself how you get water (it will be scarce) and if you like to swim in the sea, you better do it now, in 2050 the Baltic Sea could be so flooded in summer be of life-threatening Vibrio bacteria that probably nobody wants / is allowed to swim in it anymore.

Reimer and Staud have already written a book together, "Wir Klimaretter", in which they outlined in 2007 how emissions in Germany could be halved by 2020. Well, could have cut it in half. Unfortunately it didn't happen. So this time they go the opposite way. Instead of asking what to do, they show what's going to happen.

Six years of drought and groundwater could run out

There will be many more "natural disasters" (I put this in brackets because climate change is not a natural phenomenon, but man-made). The economy will groan just as much from a lack of cooling water as from logistics problems. The forest as we know it will be gone, the spruce can no longer be. The summers of 2018 and 2019 - two years in a row, so extensive so little water - that has not existed in Europe since the French Revolution. Scientists at the Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam determined by satellite analysis that Central Europe was missing the enormous amount of 145 billion tons of water in the summer of 2019. However, 70 percent of our water supply is based on groundwater. Six years of drought and that could be a close one.

The great extinction of species will also be well advanced. For most animal species there is a temperature threshold above which the species can no longer adapt. A team of researchers from University College London has analyzed the living conditions of 30,000 marine and land species as well as the climatic conditions from 1850 to 2100. They predict that an abrupt mass extinction will set in in the tropical oceans as early as 2030. In the shallow water regions off the coast of Israel (which are particularly hot) only five percent of the species actually native there still live today.

The fate of the Brocken anemone almost looks like a literary symbol for what is happening around the world: Many plants and animal species are trying to get to colder regions because of the rising temperatures, the habitats shift an average of 17 kilometers per decade towards the Poles. The Brocken anemone has only grown on the highest mountain in the Harz Mountains for thousands of years. There it has withdrawn more and more in the last few decades, today you can only find it on the summit. The fact that she is officially strictly protected will not do her any good up there in the too hot sunshine, she is trapped there on her last few hectares and will soon be gone.

And what about the person? Well, we are extremely adaptable. And some of Reimer's and Staud's book even sounds tempting at first: Berlin will have roughly the same climate as Toulouse, Munich that of Milan, and Hamburg summers will resemble those of Pamplona today. These are beautiful cities - but their architecture is differently adapted to the heat than ours. And already today there are thousands of deaths from heat in a hot summer in Germany.

So uncomfortable prospects for Germany in 2050? Yes. But in all likelihood the time is not over there. Our children and grandchildren will still be alive in 2070 and 2100 and everything will depend on whether it stays at the inevitable 1.5 degrees and the resulting changes so impressively described by Nick Reimer and Thoralf Staud, or whether everything finally continues to rise, above all tipping points, the sea level, the temperatures, the devastation.

(This text is from the weekly Newsletter Environmental Friday you here free of charge can order.)