The New North: The World in 2050

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Profile, 2011 - Climatic changes - 322 pages
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Global warming has a silver lining for one part of the world: the countries around the arctic rim. Professor Laurence C Smith spent 15 months travelling through Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and the northern United States, and in The New North Professor Laurence Smith he shows how, by 2050, they may be flourishing. In the face of four key mega-trends: global warming, pressure on natural resources (especially oil and water), globalization and an exploding but aging population, some countries will benefit. While countries closer to the equator will suffer, Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and the northern United States will become formidable economic powers and migration magnets. Their cities will flourish: unlikely places such as Nuuk (Greenland); Hammerfest (Norway), Archangelsk (Russia)! But there's a catch.While wreaking havoc on the environment, global warming will liberate a treasure trove of oil, gas, water and other natural resources previously locked in the frozen north, enriching residents and attracting newcomers, according to Smith. And these resources will pour from northern rim countries - or NORCs, as Smith calls them - precisely at a time when natural resources elsewhere are becoming critically depleted, making them all the more valuable. Laurence Smith spent 15 months travelling the northern rim of the world originally simply to study the effects of climate change, especially among such indigenous peoples as Canada's Inuit and Scandinavia's Sami. He interviewed seal hunters, reindeer herders, fishermen, miners, farmers, oil company executives, biologists, climatologists, oceanographers, indigenous elders, restaurant operators, small-town mayors and big-time federal officials. But he uncovered a much bigger story. "I kept badgering people for stories about climate change," Smith says. "They'd sigh and oblige me, but then say, 'There's also this oil plant going up behind me' or 'All these Filipino immigrants are pouring in.' Within about two months, I realized there is a lot more going on up there besides climate change. Climate change is a critical threat to many people, but it isn't the sole development in their lives." He predicts how, for instance: New shipping lanes will open during the summer in the Arctic, allowing Europe to realize its 500-year-old dream of direct trade between the Atlantic and the Far East, and resulting in new access to and economic development in the north Oil resources in Canada will be second only to those in Saudi Arabia, and the country's population will swell by more than 30 percent, a growth rate rivaling India's and six times faster than China's. NORCs will be among the few place on Earth where crop production will likely increase due to climate change. NORCs collectively will constitute the fourth largest economy in the world, behind the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the European Union and the United States. NORCs will become the envy of the world for their reserves of fresh water, which may be sold and transported to other regionsIn a brilliant synthesis of hard data and human stories, The New North turns the world literally upside down.

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Professor of geography Laurence C. Smith makes a fine oracle. His ambitious, candid and accessible book predicts what the world will be like in 2050. He’s well-poised to make climate predictions, since he combines academic training with firsthand observations in the far north. He translates dense academic data into common language and – perhaps most importantly for a hotly debated topic like climate change – he’s clear on what science knows and what it doesn’t know. Smith optimistically voices the hope that humanity can correct its current course, but he doesn’t give many specific suggestions for what the reader might do to slow the pending upheaval. His study and projections range from shifts in agriculture to the likelihood of armed conflict and new national boundaries. getAbstract recommends Smith’s forecast about the impact of the great thaw to those interested in science and the results of global warming, and to those planning ahead for changes in worldwide resources and markets.
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About the author (2011)

Laurence C. Smith is professor and vice-chairman of geography and professor of earth and space sciences at the University of California. He has published more than fifty research papers, in journals such as Science and Nature and in 2006 he briefed Congress on the likely impacts of northern climate change. His work has been covered in the LA Times, National Geographic, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Time Magazine and NPR.

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