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Nearly 14 years ago, back in 1992, I began to read about global warming, and its ultimate effect on our planet. A science fiction writer with a strong interest in “if this goes on” fiction, I decided to set a story or two in a global warming future. So I began to research what the climatologists knew.

And it shocked me.

As I read the vast amount of public information about the major US aquifers, their drawdown rates, and predictions for their depletion, when I looked at the climate models being created by the top climatologists in the field, when I read the numbers on carbon emissions . . . this was back before China came online as a growing consumer of automobiles and coal-fired electricity, remember . . . I was, as I said, shocked.

Why wasn’t anyone talking about this? It was scary! I had created a really nasty future in the US with very little water and all that meant in terms of a collapsed US economy. Over the top, I thought, but if I could simply keep one toe in reality . . .

My really nasty future fell within the parameters of predicted climate change.

The Drylands stories appeared in Asimov’s. The novel The Drylands came out in 1994, and won the Compton Crook award for best first novel. We had some wet years. Climate change was not an issue. I wrote more books and more stories. Time passed.

Global warming is now, finally, on everyone’s lips. So it was time to revisit Drylands. I picked up the book again, looked over my research.

This time . . . it frightened me.

The predictions being made, back in 1992, about melting glaciers, drying forests susceptible to insect damage that would burn in huge wildfires, to be replaced by a different ecosystem as the climate zones shifted northward, the increase in the intensity of storms and droughts, the rise in ocean temperatures . . .

. . . it’s all coming true. Now. The predictions . . . back in 1992 . . . were, as I recall, for something like forty years out. Forty. Not fourteen.

It is not a comfortable feeling playing Cassandra, when you stare the coming disaster in the face. And you know what? I may see some of those worst case scenarios begin to come to pass before I die. And I’m not that young. Are you listening, Phoenix? Los Angeles? Imperial Valley? The current level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is nearing 400 ppm. That is higher than it has been for the last 650,000 years. It could rise above 500 ppm before the middle of this century. If we don’t slow it down.

Do you want that? Do you really want to find out if the world that my characters in my Drylands stories inhabit is your future? Do you? It might well come to pass. Think of that next time you vote, or purchase a car. Will you? Pay attention, okay? It won’t be a nice world to live in.

Mary Rosenblum 2006

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