In “After Earth,” the characters played by Will and Jaden Smith return to the Green Planet a thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humans to leave it. So, what will Earth actually look like in 1,000 years? Should we start packing our solar backpacks? We asked experts.
The year 1816 was cold. So cold, in fact, that summer never came: It’s still known as the Year Without a Summer. Several centuries earlier, Earth went through a hot stage.
But at no time during the past millennium has the temperature changed as much as it’s on track to do if climate change continues. “There have been quite marked changes in the past millennium,” explains Dr. Nicholas Pepin, principal lecturer in geography at the University of Portsmouth, who specializes in climate-change research. “In the 12th and 13th century, Europe was warmer than it is now, and there was a severe drought in the U.S. Then, around the 1700s and 1800s, there was the Little Ice Age, which among other things led to smaller droughts. But we’re still talking about temperature changes of one, maximum two degrees Celsius. An increase of more than two degrees would be unprecedented.”
That’s exactly why climatologists, scientists and politicians view an average temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius as the point of no return for humanity. And yet we’re on track to pass that two degree red line. According to Norway’s Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), the current rate of global warming will land us at an alarming five-degree increase.
Even if the increase is a mere two degrees, the results for our descendants during the coming millennium will be disastrous. Cities, even regions, will completely disappear as the water rises. Decreasing rainfall will lead to droughts, which may lead to wars. And epidemics will erupt as entire populations flee sinking areas and resettle in crowded cities. The Little Ice Age seems like an attractive alternative.
What can people do to make a difference?
Jaden: Not only on Earth Day but just the way humans should live their life. There’s too much plastic in what we produce.What’s killing us is the plastic. And the cars. Go buy an electric car, a Tesla, a hybrid Escalade. It’ll cost more but help the world. And the plastic — refill your bottle, if you must get a bottle. Get a tin can! At home, we have these high-tech glass bottles that we open up, you leave ’em in the fridge. Some people take them home if they’re like that and they want to steal from us.
Will: Yes, there’s something about the bottle that makes people take them home. We’re like, ‘Hey man, that’s our cup!’
And your tip, Will?
Will: It all starts with education. There’s a lot of misconceptions about what’s happening with the planet and it can be fun — to get educated about what it means to be green, and what a footprint means. Families should make it fun to learn and understand the situation.
Jaden: And tap water will not kill you.