Here’s my decennial prediction of the future, per Keith’s inquiry. By 2030:
1) New sources of fossil fuels and the defeat of carbon pricing in any form will put the economy more or less “back on track” to its overheated consume-at-any-price every-Christmas-bigger-than-the-last frenzy. Canada and Texas will thrive. Possibly this will happen in time to rescue Obama, since enough people vote their wallet to make US elections completely predictable and not about anything.
2) Congress will have its climate science theater but probably won’t press the point, the Republicans having “won” the game for the foreseeable future. This will actually work to the Democrats’ advantage ion the short run. A modest gesture in the direction of the Breakthrough Institute’s massive investment in energy will prop up the economy a bit and salve people’s consciences a bit, and will largely vanish without a trace into the vast money pit of DOE.
3) The relative position of the US with respect to the rest of the world will continue to decline slowly. The holders of American currency seem to have the discipline to let the air out very slowly. In America this will be perceived as substantial inflation. A low interest mortgage will be like free money.
4) There will never be high speed rail in Texas along the I-35 corridor. Never ever ever. We will have a hispanic Democrat governor, but we will never get in a passenger locomotive again anywhere in Texas. There still will be no sidewalks, either.
5) The suggestion that anybody has any spare wealth or attention to care about the future will be treated with cynicism here and overseas; neither biodiversity nor the future climate will matter much. Sustainability will be a complete joke every day until the day it’s not a joking matter anymore.
6) The west and southwest US will continue to dry out but this won’t be of much concern outside agriculture. Snow cover will continue to retreat, but nobody in America besides ski resorts will care much. Occasional bizarre seasons leading to crop failures will become more common, causing failures of low-capital operations. This will concentrate agriculture production in agribusinesses (except for high-value-add boutique farms for the wealthy and high end restaurants, a much smaller market).
7) There will be no such thing as wild caught seafood.
8) The influence of the university will decline sharply and perhaps vanish altogether outside the hard sciences and engineering. Even there, the universities as we know them will lose control of undergraduate education.
9) As climate deterioration continues, the initial impact will fall, unfortunately but inevitably, largely on less-developed subtropical regions. This year’s events in Pakistan will be marked as the harbinger. This will greatly exacerbate the already absurd tensions between the Islamic world and everybody else. The west will not be able to motivate any useful intervention. Low-grade guerilla war will persist. We will find ourselves turning into Israelis.
10) There will be demands for geoengineering, which will keep the field of physical climatology afloat, even though somehow we will end up vaguely blamed for all the problems. However, the geopolitical constraints that made carbon pricing treaties impossible will continue to apply, and implementation will prove politically impossible.
11) Carbon concentrations will not only continue to rise, the rise will continue to accelerate. Still, the problems probably won’t seriously hit the fan for a generation.
12) Nature conservation will be a hobby for the wealthy. National Parks will be priced out of most people’s budgets. Most remnants of nature will be replaced by landscaping or blight. It will be recognized that once climate change kicks in in earnest, wildlife preservation will essentially be abandoned.
13) Most people will live even more frantic, distracted, entertained, worried lives with even further declining capacity for aesthetic, spiritual or intellectual development. The capacity to devote spare attention to deal with collective problems will continue to decline. Civilization will continue to be replaced by commerce. When real problems arise, we will not have the capacity to deal with them. Collapse may be abrupt, but probably can be put off a good while.