Let's say that a group of people know with 100% certainty that the global society will collapse due to a climate-change-induced catastrophe by the year 2050. What actions can they take in order to fare the best in terms of survival and quality of life once that happens?

They don't know anything else about how exactly the collapse will take place or on what kind of timeline. They are only equipped with the scientific and political knowledge of the present day.

Some key questions I am asking myself here:

What places are more likely to be able to yield crops should climate change drastically?

For example, I imagine Europe wouldn't be the best place. In the short run the increase in temperature might make farming easier at higher latitudes. However, should the atmospheric and oceanic currents change significantly, resulting in diverting the Gulf Stream from Europe -> it will essentially become a tundra.

Which places are least likely to be negatively affected by the social unrest related to food shortages?

This probably has the most to do with population numbers. For example, I imagine, once there is not enough food to go around US will not be a fun place to live, especially due to widespread gun use etc.

What about the mass migration and inevitable wars?

Some places will be affected sooner than others and we can probably expect people migrating from where there is no food/water to where there is some. This can't end well. People seem to have trouble in accommodating a 4.6 refugee Syrians globally right now. Let's see what would happen once 2.5 billion people have to relocate.

I'm assuming action would need to be planned and taken way before the troubles really do kick in because after they do, relocating and establishing a living space might be prohibitively difficult.

Also, the group of people doesn't have clearly defined numbers (i.e. can grow and shrink) but we start essentially with a core of say 15 people. The numbers can change depending on how convincing that core group can be / how good at attracting other members. The core group also doesn't have massive resources at their disposal, lets say \$20,000 in savings each and jobs stable enough to allow them a freedom to take out a collective mortgage on whatever they decide to build (say up to \$400,000 per person).

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    $\begingroup$ You're going to have to specify some more, because society is not going to collapse because of climate change that is actually going to happen by 2050. There might be another 1C temperature increase and a few more centimeters of sea level, but nothing catastrophic. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Oct 31 '16 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ The question is too broad, especially because you are jumping to conclusions. Please edit it and decrease its scope (narrow your conditions). Describe how and where climate will change in your scenario, then ask about crops only. That last thing seems to be your focus, so there is no need to bring in global collapse and especially not non-measurable vagueness like climate-change-induced sadness. $\endgroup$ – user3106 Oct 31 '16 at 14:21

Your people might do well to look into hydroponics. I don't know exactly what resources your group have available, but if I were planning something like this, I'd want a high-tech, self-contained habitat. Wind, solar, possibly nuclear power, running a hydroponic vertical farm, possibly in a cave system or abandoned mine system. Having that kind of setup would allow them much greater flexibility in location, sidestepping the uncertainty and unpredictability of climate change.

Second possibility - aquaculture. A seaborne city would have the greatest flexibility of location, and would be able to farm phytoplankton and algae to keep a sizeable population fed. Untying from the land means that climate change is little more than a nuisance.

  • $\begingroup$ The problem with high-tech solutions is that they rely on the outside world for components to your system, making it really not self-sustainable in medium-long term. $\endgroup$ – Sanuuu Oct 31 '16 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ It depends what kind of group size we're looking at. A community of several thousand people and a large data store would be well placed to fabricate what they needed from the wreckage of civilization, especially with relatively minor improvements in 3D printing technology. $\endgroup$ – Werrf Oct 31 '16 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking a community more in the range of 150-300 people so smaller than that. Also, remember that a lot of modern technology depends on materials and manufacturing techniques that would be out of reach even for a several thousand people-sized community (i.e. PV Solar power generation, battery manufacturing etc.) $\endgroup$ – Sanuuu Oct 31 '16 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Sanuuu Anything is possible with enough money. 300 well-meaning people can pool their resources - purchase an old or laid-up ship, hire a few contractors for the more specialised stuff, and do the rest themselves. They don't need to do everything alone - even if nobody else on the planet believes their predictions, contractors will do what they are paid to. $\endgroup$ – Cooper Oct 31 '16 at 16:13

While I lack details, I would suggest they take a page from Asimov's book and setup a "Foundation".

You'll have to pick a place, which I cannot really help you with, but essentially:

  1. A group of like-minded people form a conclave somewhere
  2. The goal is self-sustainability. Entirely off-grid.
  3. The organization should additionally seek to not just survive the coming disaster, but to preserve as much of the original body of human knowledge and culture.
  4. Some paramilitary force would be required. Maybe a wall, guards, etc. The point is to somehow become entirely isolationist until the worst is over.

A possible idea for a location: Northern Canada. (a.k.a. Terminus)

There are huge tracts of nearly entirely uninhabited land in Canada that will probably (don't quote me on this) endure climate change. If you can stand the black flies, a paramilitary compound as far from everything as possible (helicopter access only, perhaps?) should be able to endure both the climate change and moving populations. Essentially you'll want to pick a spot as far from any cities as possible. You can hunt and forage for survival. It's not ideal, but it's a workable fallback assuming agriculture is too hard to pull off in changing climates and hydroponics fail.

  • $\begingroup$ Soooo.... you're saying it would need to be, well, illegal. A state inside a state. Not something one could establish with modest resources (assume $500,000 per head) and and in a non-obvious fashion. $\endgroup$ – Sanuuu Oct 31 '16 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ If you want to restrict the free movement of people (i.e. environmental refugees causing over crowding), then... yes. Any legal structure comes with too many restrictions to really go full isolationist. $\endgroup$ – mfoy_ Oct 31 '16 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking that could be overcome with security through obscurity and maybe inaccessibility. Say, somewhere in the middle of south island of New Zealand? NZ is unlikely to get very much climate migration due to its remoteness and on the other hand keeping the small size of the community combined with lack of proximity to any larger settlements will make it an unlikely target for whatever government actions are in place when the tough times come. $\endgroup$ – Sanuuu Oct 31 '16 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ That's basically what I said: remote and inaccessible. I think it's patently obvious that you wouldn't be broadcasting your location in any case. $\endgroup$ – mfoy_ Oct 31 '16 at 20:07

In the first phase, the equatorial belt becomes uninhabitable. Everything from the Tropic of Cancer to Tropic of Capricorn warms a bit and people become really cognizant that humans can only survive in hot climates with extreme difficulty. Agriculture in Southern California becomes agriculture in Northern California. Northern California moves to Oregon. Siberia blooms. Migrants, especially the uneducated, are discouraged.

In the second phase, the equatorial belt is depopulated. Most people in Greece, Italy, Southern California and Florida cannot migrate due to lethal restrictions. Frequent hurricanes and extreme weather become major farming and transportation obstacles. Survivors in Southern California, Italy, and Southeast Asia start building underground farms powered by cheap LEDs, solar, and high altitude wind turbines. United States becomes loose federation of strong states while EU zone dissolves.

In the third phase, some respite comes to Europe as the gulf stream shifts. Survivors in the marginal zones complete moving underground, living just below the surface. Canada becomes a major economic hub and international trade resumes across the northern pole. South Africa takes and hold the Antarctic continent and aggressively builds a biosphere. It's major trading partner is Australia, it's desert blooming and being settled. The poles diverge culturally.

All in all, a bad day. The best you could do is to aggressively study hydroponics and power generation to become exceedingly valuable.


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