A new genre, climate fiction, has developed as some prominent writers have begun to explore a world skewed by climate change. But won’t climate change matter to characters we already know and love? Here are a few characters who should begin calling their representatives.
1: Sebastian, The Little Mermaid
Sebastian already has a lot of stressors with a demanding boss and difficult work assignments. Climate change is not going to help matters. For one thing, as the oceans absorb more CO2, water becomes increasingly acidic and as a result Sebastian and his shellfish brethren are going to have a harder time calcifying their shells. This process also hurts reef building corals which are home base for basically everybody Sebastian knows and works with. Sebastian is also, somewhat understandably, occasionally mistaken for a lobster. Previously this would lead to awkward exchanges at parties that would be quickly forgotten. Unfortunately, due to warming waters and overfishing, lobsters have begun rampantly cannibalizing one another. Just bad news all around for the crustacean crooner.
2: Assassins Who Specialize in Ski-Related Murder
It is a tough market for young assassins who have dedicated their lives to learning how to fire an assault rifle while pursuing the James Bonds of the world on a steep, twisting downhill. The Cobra Arctic Assault Squad for example will see less and less action while the Cobra Desert Troopers get increased funding from the Cobra command hierarchy as deserts expand and snowpacks and snow fall diminish. It’s not just that an already niche job market is drying up, it will also be more difficult for them to pass on their unique and deadly skill set to their kids. For example “Under certain warming forecasts, more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast (U.S.) will not be able to maintain a 100-day season by 2039.”
2: Smokey the Bear
Preventing forest fires is the only thing Smokey talks about, the only thing he thinks about, the basis for the only job that he has ever held. It is literally his Raison d’être. That’s why it is so disheartening for Smokey to think about the fact that extreme heat, droughts, “beetle ravaged trees,” earlier snow melts and other factors brought on by climate change will exacerbate fires so dramatically.
4: Springfield Republican Party, The Simpsons
Mr. Burns and his team (Rich Texan, conservative talk show host Birch Barlow, Count Dracula, Helen Lovejoy, etc*) are members of an organization that is unique among the world’s major political parties in their rejection of climate change. While 97 percent of climate scientists are convinced that climate change is real and caused by humans, 55 percent of Congressional Republicans in the 113th Congress aren’t having it. This is going to be a problem down the road, regardless of whether your party chair runs a nuclear power plant. Republicans have been quite proud of their efforts to block climate change legislation and that is going to be tough to justify as sea levels rise and water cycles become increasingly erratic. Things are already starting to tip Mayor Quimby’s and the Democrats’ way. In a recent poll done of under-35 voters, 79 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported the president’s climate change plan, and 73 percent would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed the plan.
*Strong reason to suspect Rainer Wolfcastle is on the right side of this issue.
5: Every character in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, including the Salmon
Yemen is running out of water. This is in large part due to poor resource management and population growth, but there is also the fact that climate change is making the Middle East a drier and less fertile landscape. “In Sana, the capital, in the 1980s, you had to drill about 60 meters to find water. Today, you have to drill 850 to 1,000 meters to find water.” Of the 15 aquifers in Yemen only two are self-sustaining. So if you are salmon imported from Europe to inspire harmony in the local people, or a couple whose relationship will only blossom by working together to keep said salmon alive, you have some real competition. Not just from farmers looking to keep their crops alive but from people who are constantly worrying where the next gallon of water for their family is going to come from. You are also competing with people who have guns; historically people with guns, not salmon or fly fishermen, do better in areas destabilized by resource shortages.
6: Buddy Garrity, Friday Night Lights
It’s hard to be the top car salesman in Texas or an effective booster club fundraiser when the state’s economy is being hit hard by droughts that are only likely to deepen with each passing decade. Cattle numbers are hitting record lows in Texas as ranchers move their herds north or sell off their livestock as grass wilts and feed costs increase. No doubt the football fields are getting water but it is also entirely possible that Dillon is one of the 665 communities in Texas that have put water restrictions in place.
7: Ricky Bobby, Talladega Nights
As the NASCAR Circuit works its way through the South, it is going to get pretty damn hot out there for fans who are surrounded by a lot of concrete. “By the end of the century, projections indicate that North Florida will have more than 165 days (nearly six months) per year over 90ºF, up from roughly 60 days in the 1960s and 1970s.” While SEC Football could eventually start moving indoors, it’s not so easy with NASCAR.
8: Dustin Hoffman, Outbreak
Racing against the clock to cure an Ebola-like disease before an entire infected town is wiped off the map with an a-bomb because that appears to be the only way to prevent the start of a global pandemic is something you can, and should, brag to your grandkids about. Waging a seemingly never ending war against mosquito-borne illnesses makes for a less compelling narrative, but is going to become increasingly important to anybody working in disease control. Diseases like West Nile, Malaria and Dengue “bone breaker” Fever are flourishing as the planet warms and mosquitos begin to thrive in new areas. These diseases are particularly devastating for impoverished tropical communities which did little to contribute to climate change but often pay an outsized price.
9: Crockett and Tubbs, Miami Vice
Miami’s stylish protectors might not live to see the day when the steamy streets filled with drug dealers, Ferraris, sexual tension and pastel colors where they once operated are covered with water. But they may be around in 2041 which, based on current projections, is the date Miami’s fate as an American Atlantis will be sealed.
10: Captain Kirk (and every other fictional character living after 2100)
It is hard to know what Earth will be like for the 23rd century raconteur when he takes leave from the Enterprise and travels home. Climate change projections often don’t go past 2100. That is in part because we do not yet know how we will respond to this issue and the farther you go out, the trickier the science gets. People likely have a harder time getting concerned about a time when they will be dead, and climate projections after 2100 are unbelievably scary. What we do know is that the carbon we emit each day (or at least a percentage of it) will still be impacting our atmosphere long after Kirk steps off that shuttle to go rock climbing in 2287.
If you want real solutions on climate change a good place to start is by contacting your elected officials (President Bartlett, Senator Bulworth, etc) and telling them you support a carbon tax and that climate change is a top priority for you as a voter. Whether you are doing it for Smokey, your kids or everybody you have ever met, it is important to do it now. Then again next week, and next month–because actually, climate change is already a part of everybody’s narrative.
Mark Mesle: Sweaty Soldier.
Mark Mesle, for Avidly.
“Historically people with guns, not salmon or fly fishermen, do better in areas destabilized by resource shortages.” Truth.