(2020) James Laurence Powell, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, 227pp, ISBN 978-1-529-31186-0
Having been born in 2012, an oral historian in the year 2084 looks back to the year of his birth, a time when half the population did not believe that human-induced global warming was real. The historian interviews a score or so people from different countries who outline key events in their history (our future) that were a result of climate change. Population displacement due to heatwaves and rising seas, the loss of permafrost, storm surges overwhelming cities…
This short novel is not so much science fiction as science faction: it looks back often to real, present-day science that signals the reality of human-induced climate change. It also cites some real-present-day political arguments. As someone with an interest in climate change science, I can see which academic papers the author has read to build his trajectory from the present into the future. The author himself is a geoscientist, university lecturer and science museum manager.
The future he portrays, assuming we fail to meet the 2015 Paris Accord goal of keeping warming to below 1.5°C pre-industrial, is dystopic: one of conflict and suffering. And it is this firm grounding on real science that makes The 2084 Report so frightening.
Against this backdrop of the global warming trajectory today's science tells us we are on, James Powell portrays future potential events. This is the science fiction that provides a coherent narrative for the underpinning science. It includes, among much else, a future, asymmetric, military conflict between a climate-beleaguered, but still militarily strong US, and Canada.
This book demands to be read by everyone as its message applies to us all. It will especially appeal to readers of Kim Stanley Robinson's 'Capitol Hill' trilogy and The Ministry for the Future, Chris Beckett's America City and John Lanchester's The Wall.
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