Book Review:
Parts of our world may become uninhabitable

Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape our World

Gala Vince, 2022

I highly recommend Gaia Vince's recent book, Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World, which is by far the best book I've reason climate adaptation to global warming of 2-4 degrees C by 2075 and perhaps earlier. Vince predicts that within 50 years half of the world's population, mostly in the global South, will be living in areas that are potentially lethal and possibly uninhabitable. The result will be migration on an unprecedented scale which no government will be able to stop. Vince has more detailed recommendations for climate adaptation than any author I've read, but her main idea is simple: the citizens of developed nations in the global North must totally and completely change their response to mass migration, accept it as inevitable and the only ethical course of action, and as a potentially positive benefit to their countries and humankind.  She predicts that by 2075, Greenland will be one of the most temperate and desirable places to live on Earth and that Canada will experience a huge increase in population, from 37 million today to possibly 100 million by end of the century. Large parts of South America and some of the US Southwest will become uninhabited deserts in a world of 2-4 degrees C warming. Much of the world has already exceeded 1.5 degrees C increase in temperature,  and the global average currently stands at 1.2 degrees C of warming. 


Vince has more compelling things to say re the positive benefits of migration than other climate experts, but she recognizes the potential that old fashioned nationalism in this crisis can lead to disaster, and worse. Everything about nation states has to change in coming decades. Vince is way more optimistic than I am because she understands the technological solutions to global warming in a way that I don't, and she believes that when humanity faces the choice between the destruction of civilization and deploying technological solutions already available  governments will organize themselves and rise to the challenge. I hope she's right, but I doubt she is. Nevertheless, the main political challenge will be around migration, and this challenge will put all developed countries to the test, probably sooner rather than later according to Vince. 


This book is only 210 pages, and has a wealth of information and ideas for how to adapt to global warming.

Below are some quotes from Vince's book. Predictions of global warming through end of the century are based on climate models which, to date, have been too conservative rather than too extreme. From a geological time frame, global warming is occurring with amazing rapidity. Vince is an optimist compared to many other climate experts, but she pulls no punches re human caused climate change: 


  • "The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in 2022 reached 420 parts per million, is already higher than it's been for at least the past 3 million years. As far as we know, only the instantaneous Cretaceous- Paleogene meteorite impact event, 66 million years ago, caused more rapid global climate change than the human- induced global heating. During that event, which famously killed off the dinosaurs, about 600-1,000 gigatons of carbon was released (with enormous amounts of other climate changing gases). Now, we are the asteroid, taking just twenty years to release 600 gigatons of carbon dioxide." 

  • "To keep below 1.5 degree C of warming, we'd have to halve global emissions by 2025, and reach net zero by 2050. Instead our greenhouse gas emissions are still growing .."   

  • "Climate models predict that we're on track for a heating of somewhere between 3 degrees C and 4 degrees C for 2100 - and bear in mind that these are global average temperatures. Subtract the seas from those calculations, and what you find is that, at the poles and over the lands where people live, the increase may be double that .. an increase of 10 degrees C by 2100."  

  • "An average heating of the entire globe by 4 degrees C would render the planet unrecognizable from anything humans have ever experienced." "A 4 degrees C world is a terrible prospect, uninhabitable for billions of people." At 1.2 degrees C of global warming, " .. it's already hotter than it's been in more than 100,000 years." 

  • In Australia's 2020 wildfires, "Nearly 3 billion wild animals were wiped out .. the enormity of the devastation is so great that Australian scientists have described it as an omnicide, the killing of everything." "In addition to the devastation, fires also raise global temperatures by destroying vegetation .. and by directly adding carbon dioxide from the soils and combustion."

  • "We can survive, but to do so will require a planned and deliberate migration of a kind humanity has never before undertaken."  "Large populations will need to migrate, and not simply to the nearest city, but also across continents." "In India alone, close to a billion people will be at risk.. and millions more across Latin America and Africa."

  • "At least as challenging, though, will be the task of overcoming a geopolitical mindset, the idea that we belong to a particular land and it belongs to us. ..we will, as refugees of nations, need collectively to transition to a sense of ourselves as citizens of Earth. We will need to shed some of our tribal identities to embrace a pan- species identity."

  • "With every degree of temperature increase, roughly a billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years." 

  • "Migration will save us, because it is migration that made us who we are." "How we manage this global process, and how humanely we treat each other as we migrate, will be the key to whether this century of upheaval proceeds smoothly or with violent conflict and unnecessary deaths."   

If you can read these quotes and remain optimistic regarding humanity's ability to transform itself in the next few decades to manage an upheaval of unimaginable magnitude, you have a more positive temperament than I do, and also a positive view of the human species' ethical potential which I lack. To be fair, Vince has a multitude of detailed recommendations re how to manage global migration on a vast scale, and an excellent understanding of available technologies that can and must be utilized to adapt to climate change. However, it's going to take much more than innovative technologies to prevent catastrophe. Neverthleess , reading Nomad Century is like jumping into an ice cold lake: it wakes you up, tests pain tolerance and overcomes lethargy.                               

-- Dee Wilson