Discussing the harmful effects of climate change through an informative sci-fi story

Brrrring! Brrrring!

Startled, I wake up to constant, repeated notifications on my iPhone. Trying to rub the sleep out of my eyes, I reach for my phone to snooze the sound, when I realize that this noise isn’t coming from my alarm – it’s from my fifteen-year-old cousin in India. Her long text reads, “Have you read the news? We’re locked inside our cars, in the middle of a terrible new type of heat wave – drenched in sweat due to the intense humidity. So many of us in Delhi are dying. There’s no electricity, and we’re surviving off the AC in our car. I love you.” 

Her message is more than enough to instantly evaporate my tiredness. Feeling helpless and overcome with sorrow, I message back, “I love you too. Don’t worry – everything will be ok.” But,an overwhelming feeling of despair and panic creeps onto me.

I rush to turn on the TV to get any information I can. The first channel I find to is completely overwhelmed by the huge headline, “The Terror of the Triple C.” The reporter speaks in the background: 

 “The climate change catastrophe, which people are calling the Triple C, has finally occurred, as scientists predicted two decades ago, leaving no nation unaffected.” the reporter declares. I log on to my laptop and my video reel is flooded with catastrophic images. 

The Arctic glaciers have finally given way. Unchecked and unabated, billions of gallons of freshwater are pouring into the Atlantic. Flood levels have reached as high as five stories in London. The city of Amsterdam has been submerged entirely. 

When I click on the US video reel, there are live shots of New York City’s famous streets that have turned into waterways, with water levels reaching heights of up to ten stories. A “Vlogger” in the Bronx has images of several apartment buildings that have collapsed due to the high population density found on the building’s upper levels. Another resident in Manhattan is showing a live video of armed citizens on higher floors of a Manhattan building trying to prevent those on lower floors from entering.  She then moves her camera from her terrace to broadcast the chaos on the “Hudson Bay”. The New York City Police Department and the New York City Fire Department are operating water boats to respond to distress calls. Her live feed shows the ships deployed by the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the New York Port Authority to temporarily accommodate people.

Hands trembling, I pick my phone, which has once again started to buzz. My friend from summer camp, Ray, who lives in Miami, has sent me an email reading, “We are heading to St. Louis. Everyone on the East Coast seaboard of the United States is heading straight for the Midwest!” My friend Mayank who is visiting New Orleans messages me saying, “My aunt’s condo’s first level is completely flooded and there are eight of us all on the second level huddled in one room”. Before I can reply to him, I see that Trevor, my neighbor, is calling me. I answer his call and he frantically states “My dad is stuck in Chicago! His flight got canceled because nobody is working in the air traffic control towers. Only way out for him is to drive but all the highways are utterly jammed with traffic. I am really worried!”

I get onto Google from my iPhone and search for “Chicago highway traffic”. The first hit is from the Chicago local news channel WGNTV. It says the extraordinary increase in the number of cars has caused a significant strain on the electric vehicle charging station grids. Because the car batteries have no charge, drivers are stranded on the highways. Online websites for reused cars have the three-decade-old vintage, gas-powered Honda Accord vehicles listed for a sale price that exceeded a million dollars. The cost of a gallon of gasoline has increased to more than 200 dollars. On a roadway in South Carolina, traffic is stretched for more than 20 miles in one direction.

As I struggle to deal with the gravity of the situation, the announcer speaking on television reveals a powerful cold wave has gripped the city of Tianjin, located in the northeastern corner of China. The temperature has dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The city’s residents are utilizing antiquated heating systems powered by fossil fuels, which made the CO2 levels in the city much worse. People are having trouble breathing as they walk around the streets of Tianjin. To combat the pollution, the authorities in China order a complete lockdown. They also have the fossil-fueled power facilities shut down (it seems a little late for that now). As a result, the residents of Tianjin are now dying of hypothermia inside their residences. 

My mind is numbed by the significant temperature difference between -50F in Tianjin and 140F in Delhi. It appears as though the planet is spiraling out of control. Numbed, I glumly step out to grab the newspaper from our driveway. “Three simultaneous fires in three continents ravage the world’s largest rainforests” screams the headline from the San Jose Mercury News. 

I feel as if the air has been knocked out of my lungs as I start reading the article. The fire that started in the Amazon rainforest due to illicit logging is now swiftly spreading. More than 80 percent of the tropical rainforest has been razed. 

In the Congo Basin, sand traffickers have started a fire to defend themselves against law enforcement. The blaze has quickly spread to consume sixty percent of the region’s rainforest. This has worsened the catastrophic drought in that region resulting in widespread food shortages and famine. People are torturing and killing animals, including cats and rodents, for food.

The conflict in Indonesia between the guerilla rebels and the military has taken a turn for the worse. The military has ignited a “ring of fire” around the guerilla hideouts that has already encompassed around seventy percent of the rainforest. 

According to researchers at UC Berkeley, the simultaneous occurrence of these fires is leading to a massive decrease in the amount of CO2 that the atmosphere can absorb. This, in turn, is causing temperatures to skyrocket and glaciers in the Arctic to melt, concludes the article.

I realize that my TV is still on. The reporter is announcing, “Now the latest from CDC in Atlanta, who are reporting the spread of strange respiratory ailments in Africa and Europe.”  The devastating drought in Africa and the consumption of raw animal meat has led to the outbreak of “mad cow” type flu strains accompanied by puzzling respiratory symptoms comparable to those experienced during the pandemic that occurred twenty years ago. CDC is speculating that a UN health worker who had lately returned home from Africa is the likely carrier of the disease that has spread to Europe. The report continues, “It is only a matter of time until the illness makes its way to the United States. It is now unknown whether or not our planet will survive the dual challenges of pandemic and uncontrolled climate change disasters.”

Thank god we live in California, I tell myself. Not in Delhi, New York, Tianjin, Orlando, Amsterdam, Charleston, or Nairobi. Just then, I hear urgent raps on the door! “We need to leave! We need to leave. Get Ready!” Panic surges through my veins as I begin to think of everything I need to pack, when suddenly, my mom bursts through the door, and my eyes snap open. 

“Get ready, You’re late for school!” 

I have never felt so thankful in my entire life.

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