Norvell Nelson, PhD

The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future Are There Workable Agricultural Responses to Climate Change?



This whitepaper analyzes the material presented in the book “The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future” (“2050”) by Laurence Smith, UCLA.  The author presents his predictions for the effects of climate change on the northern parts of the planet.  Professor Smith’s book describes the anticipated climate changes over the time period from 2010 to 2050.  The major prediction is that the northern parts of the planet will see a significant warming trend over this time period.  What gives his arguments real credence is that the predicted warming trend has already started and is documented for the time period 1990-2006.


The climate change projections made in “2050” suggest that the northern parts of the planet will warm up relative to today and will also receive increased rainfall.  This combination should provide for a northerly march of agricultural production to areas, such as Greenland, which are not today considered as productive farming areas.  This agricultural movement is compounded by the projections that the present “wheat/corn belts” will become warmer and much drier.


Consideration of the projected climate change consequences led to suggestions that there will be investment opportunities in the more northerly areas which are presently not amenable to productive agricultural operations.  The opportunities could be both direct, i.e., in agricultural operations, farming operations, or indirect such as grain marketing companies or even into transportation operations in the north.


Another area for potential investment in the north is energy.  The warming of the northern areas will make some areas more accessible for resource exploration.  One area pointed out is the gas hydrate resource which, if resource size estimates are credible (USGS), will dwarf the current estimates put on other natural gas resources in the US.


Further elaboration of opportunities will require more exploration of both climate change and the commercial opportunities identified.  Discussion of all of the above projections will be needed for avenues of pursuit for more detailed analyses.