Must-see TV on ABC tonight — “Earth 2100: Is this the Final Century of our Civilization?”

Tonight at 9 pm on ABC, “Bob Woodruff explores what might be the worst case scenario for civilization.”

Hurray for the mainstream media exploring the worst-case scenario aka Hell and High Water!  I am very interested in your thoughts on this show — before and after.  One of the most commented on posts of this year was “How likely is it that Global Warming will destroy human civilization within the next century?

You can see video excerpts and viewer submissions on what looks to be an excellent website:

Experts say over the next hundred years the “perfect storm” of population growth, resource depletion and climate change could converge with catastrophic results….

“If we continue on the business as usual trajectory, there will be a tipping point that we cannot avert,” says John P. Holdren, science advisor to President Obama. “We will indeed drive the car over the cliff“….

“A few hundred years down the line, they’ll look back and say the dark ages began with the twenty-first century,” says E. O. Wilson, an award-winning evolutionary biologist and professor at Harvard University.

Here’s more on the two scenarios the show lays out for humanity’s future:

Imagine a world in which cities are abandoned and our population has dropped by 90 percent. A world in which we have wreaked havoc on our delicate ecosystems and nature has begun to reclaim Earth. Once-bustling cities have fallen silent except for the rustle of the wind through the grass and trees that have cracked through the collapsing pavement. Humans have not walked these urban streets for years.

And some people say I’m an alarmist!

Does it seem like the stuff of science fiction? According to the world’s top scientists, it could very well be the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. They say we are at a turning point, that the choices we make today will determine if the human race, as we know it, will survive.

Imagine our future as two doors. Door No. 1 is our current path, or as the scientists put it, business as usual. If we continue on this trajectory, experts say, over the next 100 years the “perfect storm” of population growth, resource depletion and climate change will converge with catastrophic results. In this scenario the combination of war, famine and disease has the potential to “decimate” the world in less than a hundred years.

Note to ABC:  “Decimate” technically means kill every 10th person, but that has changed with popular usage.  That said, the ABC scenario is much harsher than mine.  Climate change killing every 10th person by 2100 — one billion people — would be a staggering outcome.  I personally cannot even conceive of what losing 90% would mean.

“Earth 2100” takes viewers through door No.1, with the help of a fictional character, Lucy. Born in the year 2009, Lucy guides us through the next century as it may well unfold, if we don’t take drastic measures. With the assistance of some of the world’s foremost scientific experts, she gives us a detailed decade-by-decade countdown to the collapse of society.

But it does not have to be. “Earth 2100” will conclude by traveling through door No. 2. The clock resets to 2009, and using the same chronology and the same scientists, we leave the viewer with the inspiring story of an alternate future. The experts tell us what actions we must take to survive and describe the world we can create. In this version, Earth in 2100 will be one we would be proud to imagine.

It does not have to be!

UPDATE:  This was certainly the best done worst-case scenario mainstream media has ever put in front of the American public.  I have a bunch of little quibbles — no one’s going to be abandoning the American suburbs just because gasoline hits $5.50 a gallon, as the show depicts — see “Why I don’t agree with James Kunstler about peak oil and the “end of suburbia.”  Heck, Great Britain has had gasoline costs above seven dollars a gallon for many years and the life goes on.  But ABC deserves a lot of kudos for laying out so many realistic threats that humanity faces on the business as usual path.

69 Responses to Must-see TV on ABC tonight — “Earth 2100: Is this the Final Century of our Civilization?”

  1. “Experts say over the next hundred years the “perfect storm” of population growth, resource depletion and climate change could converge with catastrophic results….”

    Why do they include population growth but ignore economic growth?

    Projecting current demographic trends, the world’s population will grow about 35% greater than it is today, will peak in the 2050s, and will be declining in 2100 (purely for demographic reasons).

    Projecting current economic trends, the world’s per capita income in 2100 will be about 700% greater than it is today and will be growing as rapidly as ever. In fact, per capita world income in 2100 will be about twice as great as per capita American income today – which is clealy unsustainable.

    Per capita consumption is a key issue that the environmental movement has ignored.

  2. Icarus says:

    I wonder: Did James Lovelock have any involvement in this programme? A 90% reduction of the global human population by 2100 is what he has been predicting, and I haven’t previously seen any other leading figure suggest an outcome this extreme.

  3. Gail says:

    I don’t think it’s quite fair to say the environmental movement has “ignored” per capita consumption. In fact I more frequently come across complaints that the topic of population growth has been off the table because birth control, abortion, and one-child policies are so controversial.

    Looking forward to the reality teevee show!

  4. paulm says:

    Anyone seen Wall-E?

  5. SecularAnimist says:


    “Experts say over the next hundred years the ‘perfect storm’ of population growth, resource depletion and climate change could converge with catastrophic results … RIGHT AFTER THIS IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSOR, SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP CORPORATION …”

    Over the last half-century, nothing has driven excessive, superfluous, environmentally destructive “consumption” more than commercial television.

  6. Gail says:

    It is actually amazing that a major media outlet has finally taken up the subject, especially in such an extreme fashion. Some mogul decided catastrophic climate change scenarios will stir up controversy – and ratings.

    Let’s hope it does.

    Maybe this will get more people to go see The Age of Stupid when it comes out in September. Why don’t they release it sooner? Time is of the essence!

  7. Rick Covert says:

    I was pleased to see that Bob Woodruff produced the news special. The ABC produced clips of the projections of climate change I did see were frankly terrifying as I can find no other word for it. It is quite distressing to see the film from a point of view of a woman who is 91 in 2100 who was born in Florida the same year as my niece. She now lives in Florida. I thought the 90% population decline was lifted right out of ‘Omega Man’ or its latest incarnation ‘I Am Legend’ and it seemed pretty unbelievable even for a pessimistic projection of the seriousness of pandemic brought about by climate change. Nevertheless, I hope my niece has a brighter future than the worst case scenario predicted in the news program.

    I saw a small clip of James Howard Kunstler, ‘The Long Emergency’ author, and some of what transpires in the news special. I hope they have included such notables as Amory Lovins, not one of Kuntsler’s favorites, Lester Brown of ‘Plan B 3.0’, Bill McKibben author of ‘Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future’ and you to Joe. Sorry Bill haven’t read your book yet but it is definitely on the list.

    I saw all of the amateur video clips and a few of them are good. The ‘2015: Water Rationing?’ clip in particular was good. Some were just silly like the ‘2015: Climate Change Apocalypse’ and there were those that were hyperdramatic like the ‘2100: A Swiftly Mutating, Airborne Virus’ video clip. Some people may not distinguish these amateur clips from the seriousness of the program and impugn the entire program based on these alone. ‘The What if Wildfires Consumed L.A.?’ looked like a comic version of ‘Blair Witch Project’ because of the running scenes in the clip.

    Some of the images, particularly the surgical masks reminded me of the movie ‘Soylent Green’ my dad took me to when it came out and others resembled Mad Max The Road Warrior as the clip called ‘Brooklyn Under Assault’ was depicted.

  8. John Boy says:

    It is an improvement that they’ll end on a positive note. I hope they do more to inform that to scare. We need a positive picture of the future to prevent burnout.

    The Boy of John

  9. Jim Beacon says:

    Hmmm. Sounds like a made-for-TV version of “An Inconvenient Truth”. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except being network television airing on an American network owned by Disney, look for lots of hedging phraseology:

    “could converge”
    “might happen if”
    “it’s conceivable that”
    “some feel that”
    “there’s a possibility that”
    “a few studies indicate”

    Any bets on how much air time will be given to various denier/delayer statements (some obvious, others more subtle)? I’m guessing at least 15% — enough to make the rest of the program sound like science fiction to Joe Six Pack.

  10. lizardo says:

    It sounds like ABC has taken the format (of including viewer submitted videos) from an existing (new) PBS program called Blueprint America or Blueprint something… I finally got to see Shai Agassi, but one of the panelists was a utility exec saying all the right things (not Jim Rogers for a change) and one of the viewer videos was from some big corporation, yuck.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Only6 10% of current world population? That’s 670 million then. Can that many survive without industrial agriculture? Becase at current rates, minable phosphorus runs out in 2070 CE.

  12. Mark says:

    “”Until we have a crisis of some kind, I don’t think we’re going to be motivated to make the really deep changes in the way we use energy, the technologies we use, the density of our cities, our travel patterns,” says Thomas Homer-Dixon, a political science professor and author of “The Upside of Down.”

    Right, so in the absence of a real crisis we’ll just make stuff up. It’s not even logical that 90% of the human population would cease to exist in 100 years due to climate change, dwindling resources and over popualation. As soon as actual evidence to support those scenerios moves beyond the if, could, might, possibly someday stage I would bet we have fairly rapid canges in business as usual.

  13. Kate says:

    Yikes – that looks like a very scary program – looking at climate change in the geological scale always freaks me out the most.

    I went to the ABC website and read their article, then the comments. It really amazed me that some people were still saying “global warming is junk science.” Someone even linked to the NIPCC page :)

  14. I can’t wait to watch here on the West Coast.

    I’m going to pop me some popcorn and put some butter and salt on it because this sounds like must see TV to me.

    It’s bound to be far more horrific and heart stopping than any mere “Drag Me To Hell” special effects Hollywood movie by Sam Rami.

    After all, this this is a brand new genre:
    Horror Reality Television

    No actors, CGI or green screen necessary! Low budget, high concept, sure to be boffo ratings.

    Truly Tivo-worthy TV to tune into.

  15. Alex J says:

    Maybe later, the program will even stir some regular folk to honest, genuinely interested discussion on their comments thread – a change from the usual nonsense from the deniers & delayers.

  16. K L Reddington says:

    Lot of fear out there. I recall studying Malthus long ago. Not a new cycle of fear.
    There will be people that have cardiac fibrilation out of fear. We are moving into a post modern science era. A lot more tv drama and writing on science and a lot less calculation. Lay out a few facts, some drama and a lot of video enhancement and we get people distracted.
    Unfortunately this lays the groundwork for some savior to come along and do an intervention or promise saving the planet. Maybe I could dust off my counseling certificates. No on the other hand that is why i got out of behavior modification.

  17. Also check out the commercials.

    If it is like the Sunday morning talk shows there will be lots of “Exxon is working on our future” and “We are part of the solution tomorrow” blah, blah, blah.

    I am guessing that the audience demographic will be very attractive to certain advertisers.

  18. MusLopil says:

    What interesting article, but where took information?

  19. David B. Benson says:

    Joe Romm (I think) wrote “It does not have to be!”

    How to feed 9+ billion people without minable phosphate?

  20. Jay Alt says:

    Thanks for the heads up, looking forward to watchin. I would have missed it had I not checked the website and saw it was 9 PM EST. Good, accurate title. the Earth will be fine but Civilization could be in terrible shape.

  21. ZS says:

    I’m watching this now. KUDOS to whoever gave this the green light at ABC:

    only 13 minutes in, and there have already been appearances by:

    Michael Klare
    Jared Diamond
    Richard Heinberg
    James Kunstler
    Michael Pollan
    John Podesta

    I hope this isn’t too polarizing. I can easily see angry people changing the channel in disgust and spewing nonsense. Then again, this is the sad potential future we face. People need to see it.

  22. CNBC Sucks says:

    Yes, Earth 2100 was extraordinary, maybe on the same scale as “The Day After” in terms of emotional impact. It was so good that I was expecting a Republican Party or coal industry rebuttal at the end.

    Too bad most of America’s youth were busy trying to decide whether they are emo or indie, or which design they would like for their 14th tattoo.

    By the way, Joe, that Lucy scenario in Earth 2100 was supposedly the “worst-case scenario”, but the horribly bleak future it portrayed already featured tons of progressive and proactive efforts such as renewable energy technologies, electrified transportation, huge infrastructure projects, etc. That supposedly worst-case scenario therefore assumes no Republican Presidents and Congresses between now and 2075, so Lucy wasn’t really the worst-case scenario now, was it?

  23. Peter Sinclair says:

    I’m concerned that the comic book format makes it seem too unreal, and not to be taken seriously, over the top.
    The last 15 minutes, which explain a positive vision, are actually the best – but way too little in the way of explaining the technological possibilities.

  24. Chris says:

    I’m glad ABC put this out there. I feel like I’m always hinting at this stuff with people, but I hate being the bearer of fearful news. This laid it out and will allow us all to talk about it and hopefully change our behavior. This tv show and the story of stuff video are what we need. Credible info, frightening realities, but always showing the possiblity of how we can transform society.

  25. Robert Nagle says:

    This was an excellent program, and the last 10 minutes (where they envision an alternate message) encapsulates the issues well.

    A complaint. They do not prescribe individual action. As far as I’m concerned, the most important consumer issues are: 1)choosing a green energy provider and 2)choosing a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

    However, these two obvious steps are not mentioned once. Why? Hmmm, I wonder. My ABC affiliate accepts a lot of advertising for coal and natural gas providers, as well as ads for SUV cars. I don’t know if I am seeing conspiracies where there is only omissions, but we have to recognize the difficult position commercial TV channels face when they suggest actions which are contrary to the interests of their sponsors.

    On another note, I discovered that my mother (an educated woman) had no idea what “renewable energy” meant. She thought it referred to whether you needed to renew your rate on a periodic basis. Texas has a website to let consumers compare rates, but if you didn’t know what “renewable energy” meant (or implied), you would not be able to make a eco-friendly decision.

    In Houston, green energy plans are practically the same price as coal/natural gas plans,and yet I am surprised by how few people actually have chosen them.

  26. Brewster says:

    Well done, I thought…

    But I agree that deniers would have probably started turning it off within 15 minutes…

  27. Leland Palmer says:

    This is great progress, Joe.

    We’re still a little short on substantive action, but awareness is growing very quickly now.

    You are partially responsible, I think.

    Thanks for the hard work.

  28. First commercial break (here on the west coast):
    Verizon Wireless
    Olive Garden
    “Wipeout” ABC show promo
    ABC “Your Favorite Shows Live Here” promo

  29. Sam says:

    I thought it was good, but–I think what we really need is a Ken Burns type documentary, 6-12 hours worth on consecutive nights, with more details and perhaps discussion. People sat through 12 hours or so of The Civil War, CC is getting enough publicity now that I think (hope?) a lot of people would sit through a much longer program if it was presented in an interesting manner, one hour at a time. The water issue, for example, was referred to several times, but it is crucial. I have read articles on the illegal immigrant problem here in the US that connects it to drought in Mexico. It could be far far worse in 40-50 years. The program makes this point, but it could have been made more powerfully in more detail. Peter Gleick was on the show, and he would be a perfect talking head for that sort of thing. Ditto with Jared Diamond. But the water issue isn’t just in the US southwest/Mexico. Africa, Asia, the mideast, Australia–they will all be suffering (are already suffering, but it could be much much worse). People in the 7 Colorado River states in the US know it firsthand, and people in the southeast got a little taste of it last year, but I’m not sure many Americans know how bad it could be. Talk about how bad it could get, but use at least half the 12 hours talking about how to address the problems. There are things we can do, but this show didn’t really go into it in enough detail. That is what people really need to see–concrete things to do, new ways of relating to food, water, other species of plants and animals. We need to think about ecosystem services, to use a buzz word in some circles that should become as important a consideration as “profit” is in the business world. We need to be able to think about and see the world ecologically, and most of us need help to effectively do this.

    Blah blah blah–end rant.

  30. Commercial Break 2
    Samsung LED TV
    OxiClean MaxForce Stain Cleaner
    Excedrin PM
    ATT Wireless/Nokia
    ABC Promo: “The Superstars”
    Living Spaces Furniture (local)

    Looks like the usual mix of consumer products spots with a refreshing absence thus far of any oil or coal propaganda commercials. I’ll enjoy the rest of the show without commenting further.

  31. ZS says:

    Agreed about how great it would be to see an in depth 8-12 hour miniseries. The problem is that it’s easier to produce such a series on historical events – civil war, baseball, jazz – than it is on visions of the future.

    That said, it would be wonderful to really do the subjects of environment and energy justice. It’s exciting to see a serious mention the prospect of millions of environmental refugees on ABC, but then frustrating to see the HUGE topic covered in 3 sentences and 30 seconds before heading on to the next thing.

  32. Peterv says:

    It appears that KOLO in Reno Nv. has suppressed the dialog sound track. I can see the picture and hear the music track but no voice what so ever. Only the commercials come through loud and clear. Anyone else having this experience?

  33. jorleh says:

    This all is going to happen much earlier, 2040 – 2050. As said, time to act is twenty years ago.

  34. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Creative Greenius-

    I was tracking the advertisements too, wondering if ExxonMobil or its ilk would use this opportunity to greenwash their image.

    Didn’t see any.

    The biggest advertiser seemed to be for the next generation Toyota Prius. Good for Toyota.

    Personally, I think “Peak Oil” can’t come too soon. Unfortunately, I think that the drilling and sensing technology is there to pump enough oil out of the ground to totally destabilize the climate.

    Green technology is great, but green technology alone cannot solve the climate crisis at this point. Only carbon negative bioenergy schemes can put enough carbon back underground to save us, IMO:

    Carbon-negative energy, that is bio-energy with carbon storage (BECS) is the most radically green type of energy available, because it allows humanity to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere. And according to leading scientists, like NASA’s Dr James Hansen, this is exactly what we should be aiming for. He calls for a reduction of atmospheric CO2 levels to 350ppm. Biomass coupled to CCS is one of the key technologies needed to achieve this goal (previous post). Carbon-neutral technologies like wind, solar, or hydropower are never able to reduce emissions beyond zero.

  35. Bill R says:

    Any MSM documentary with James Kunstler, Richard Heinberg, Michael Pollan, Van Jones, Jim Holdren, Jared Diamond, etc. is groundbreaking in my mind. I appreciated their attempt to explain that what environmentalists deeply fear is not about the extinction of the polar bear, but about agricultural collapse, disease, major coastal flooding, runaway climate change, and collapse. It had some weaknesses, but a good piece IMHO.

  36. Jim Eaton says:

    Since I seldom watch commercial television, I appreciate the heads up. The program was long enough for me to bake a cheesecake for a dinner tomorrow evening.

    I think it would have been great if those watching understood this is not a worst case scenario of our future, but it is a very real possibility of where we are headed without significant changes in our worldwide behavior.

    And the deniers may not have tuned out after 15 minutes — they seem to be sending ABC lots of comments about how the program is a bunch of baloney.

    And yes, there is an element of “Soylent Green” to the potential future portrayed. But it is interesting to recall that “Soylent Green,” produced in 1973, was based on Harry Harrison’s 1966 book, “Make Room! Make Room!” And early in the film, Sol Roth (played by Edward G. Robinson in his last film), talks about how the terrible conditions are due to global warming.

    Too bad we didn’t take those warnings seriously 35 years ago.

  37. Tamara says:

    – utter, utter nitpick, based only on the “earth 2100” banner at the top of the post – Worst case climate includes a relatively full-sized Aral Sea? Although I suppose thats possible if a significant portion of humanity has died off.

    In any case, I will try to watch it. Thanks for the tip.

  38. Rick Covert says:

    I never thought I’d see Richard Heinberg, James Howards Kunstler, Van Jones, James Woolsey and a cast of others on mainstreem TV. I had just heard about them myself only 3 years ago on my local Pacifica Radio affiliate KPFT here in Houston.

    The public for the first time is hearing what they have to say about environment and energy.

    Joe, the gist of this is, it looks like were on the doomsday scenario track. In the doomsday scenario everything was tried from renewable energy to growing food locally. What they faiiled to do is come to agreement in 2016 on a climate bill over the issue of technology transfer. Somehow I can’t imagine US corporations hadning over their green technology to China to avert a climate crisis. This is the land of ‘intellectual property rights’ and the Obama administration, with the exception of GM, fuel mileage standards and some EPA restrictions, has proved to be too timid to challenge industry to change its mind on technology transfer and the importance of green house gas emission reductions.

  39. Gail says:

    I see this program as an excellent beginning of the conversation for many people who haven’t even given climate change a passing thought. We need more, much more and perhaps this will instigate future programs that go into greater detail.

    It is essential to contemplate the future – 2100 – but I would like to see a program about the effects that are underway right now – like the house collapsing from permafrost melt in the earlier post here – because there are plenty of them.

  40. Yuebing says:

    Does anyone know whether viewership numbers will be available?

  41. Lou Grinzo says:

    I just posted Review: Earth 2100, and the bottom line is that while I think their analysis was largely accurate, they completely blew the presentation, and with it, a perfect opportunity to educate and activate a lot of mainstream consumers and voters.

  42. lizardo says:

    Unfortunately I got really sleepy during Earth 2100 owing to the mashed potatoes effect rather than the program as otherwise I’d have maybe taken notes. I had some quibbles too, and overall I was a little puzzled though I guess they figured we know about global warming but we haven’t emotionally connected. (See Gavin Schmidt and Salon piece which Climate Progress has posted to in one of the news roundups.)

    But I thought it was a mistake to compress door number 2 — alternative path, solutions — into the last 15 minutes. Maybe they thought that would be boring.

    And it turned out that the viewer submissions were just used as filler/illustration in the broadcast version.

    I was pleased to see that

    a) nuclear power was not prominent as a solution nor hydrogen though nuke plant cooling towers were pictured with voice over about alternative energy, still there was heaviest emphasis on solar, then wind

    b) fusion mentioned but not pushed very hard

    c) the problem of corporate profts vs other countries need for new technologies was key

    d) effect of storm surges and inability of flooded areas to quickly rebound

    e) the downsides of geo-engineering (sulphur)

    f) Vulnerabiity of monoculture to pests and diseases

    g) getting at the idea that people as a species are overwhelming our support system

    h) water shortages could lead to social disorder here as well as famine/death elsewhere

    Major quibble: I don’t think Vegas could survive under the alternative scenario either

    I think it was okay that they didn’t push the change lightbulbs/upgrade vehicle etc. personal actions because we need so much more and these are always what is being suggested. Many of us can’t choose a green provider. In my state you can but it means paying more, impossible even in better economy for those with inefficient homes/appliances/habits.

    Overall I was pleased with the program’s courage to say we have to act immediately, instead of the usual “within 10, 20…50 years”. Plus putting the future in human terms/lifetime made it clear that the future matters to you…

    I think they were trying to reach people who don’t care about polar bears, penguins or elephants, and not mexicans, africans or bangladeshis either.

    I’m hoping that ABC will get some feedback indicating they need to do more on all this.

    It was a huge concept to tackle not just global warming but the confluence of all these other issues, like 11th hour, and by inserting the human timeline (and commercial breaks) there was less time for the science. So it remains to be seen if having all the premises based on the talkiing heads (and the chirons on the bottom of the screen identifying them were up so briefly) — would lead some people to think, nah, so he says, but not going to happen.

    On the other hand, with the economy imploding people may be much more attuned to believing that the party is over. For instance this program was immediately followed by local news featuring A) police and firefighters protesting budget cuts at big city council meeting, B) the air france crash.

    Not that these are directly connected to the content of earth 2100….

    Oh and speaking of commercial breaks, really funny/awful probably more local one for Food Lion (supermarket chain) of family hunting a wedge of cheddar in the wild. Mother with grocery cart full of packaged goods and grocery list. Take away message supposedly don’t hunt from store to store, shop at Food Lion, but the contrast was eerie…. Do you want to be a hunter-gatherer? Nah, keep shopping with us.

    And do you suppose that the constant promos for “wipeout” reinforced the message. Probably not.

  43. Doug says:

    I also think the presentation was botched — actually, all I can say is that it was *probably* botched, as I gave up on it just 2 minutes into it. Even by then, there was so much visual noise, and the presentation so muddled and confusing, that it was clear that it was just going to be one big emotional manipulation that had nothing to actually teach me (especially given that I’m a regular reader here). So it wasn’t worth my time.

    Fundamentally, the “Lucy” story idea seems like a really good one, but filling the screen with crude hand-drawn images was just too off-putting.
    It might be a better idea for a feature film.

    I got another sample from a clip shown when Bob Woodruff was on Monday’s Daily Show. It was the “frog in the boiling water” explanation — and it was completely muddled as well. My wife, who never heard that analogy before, had no idea what the heck it was talking about with the frog. Then Bob Woodruff gave the explanation again verbally to Jon Stewart, and again it was totally unclear.

    Basically, it looks like they really didn’t have anyone on the project — host included — who understands how to *explain* something.

    This thing was just too cheap, I guess. It was done the way TV news is done nowadays.

  44. MarkB says:

    “Imagine a world in which cities are abandoned and our population has dropped by 90 percent. ”

    I missed the “90 percent” but they did say there’s a potential for the world population to die off by the billions due in part to other factors (not just global warming). Overall, pretty good. They even covered what I think was the Calthrate Gun Hypothesis.

  45. Pete says:

    I am so disappointed… I read this blog in Google reader and the post showed up just this morning, so I missed it. Crap.

  46. MarkB says:

    I also wanted to add that the number and quality of people they interviewed was impressive.

  47. Peter Sergienko says:

    I watched this with my kids (17 and 14). The graphic novel format was presumably intended to appeal to a younger audience. It didn’t work particularly well for us as a story-telling device, but we understood the attempt.

    The expert opinion was top notch, although as others have noted some prominent and critical voices were missing (e.g., James Hansen, Joe Romm, Bill McKibben). It was great to see Van Jones.

    We all felt the program was too U.S. centered. Although it was obviously produced for an American audience, it seemed to show people from other countries primarily as victims who will ultimately cause us serious problems or as obstacles to needed action. Just what we need–more xenophobia. More discussion of other countries as positive actors and more discussion of climate justice would have greatly improved the program. Also, whose to say the Chinese won’t eat our lunch in terms of technology development and implementation? Their political system, for all its faults, can redirect industrial, energy, environmental, and water policy much more rapidly than ours.

    Ultimately, from the standpoint of encouraging action or improving the politics of addressing climate change, we felt the presented dystopian future was too bleak and the utopian future unrealistically optimistic. As others have said, the dystopian future seemed tied to really bad political decisions that are highly unlikely to occur (e.g., building more coal-fired power in the U.S., presumably without CCS; a complete failure of international negotiations with China on technology transfer). At the same time, the utopian future seemed equally unlikely. It would require massive personal and social transformation and unprecedented international cooperation within a generation. It also didn’t seem to account for the warming we’re already committed to.

    I suppose my kids and I are all realists, with a range of levels of hope for the future, but, for us, presenting alternative extremes wasn’t the most educational or motivating approach. We think the program would have been more motivating and would have benefited from a realistic discussion of the immediate and near-term politics of climate change and greenhouse gas regulation. It would have been great to see Joe’s excellent work on what is politically possible now in the U.S. incorporated into the show. The show could then have assessed outcomes from what is currently politically possible and how what is politically possible will change in the future and why.

    The dystopian future assumes that climate disaster is the only thing that will change our politics and, for that reason, change will come too late. At the same time, the utopian future seemed to assume that somehow the choices we need to make to achieve, if not a utopian future, at least the best future possible given scientific reality, are currently politically possible. Since that is clearly fantasy, and my kids and I would prefer a politics that allows for meaningful action prior to a climate disaster, identifying and moving toward a new politics that will allow us to make better decisions is among our most urgent tasks. It is also a task where everyone can be involved and everyone can make a difference. Voices like Joe’s and Bill McKibben’s could have been added to discuss these issues and a good first effort at a mainstream show on climate change improved as a result.

  48. “Earth 2100” was broadcast in at least two media markets last night without the audio track (Las Vegas, Albany NY). I called up the ABC affiliate in Albany and they blew me off — “it’s a network issue,” they said. I think the public deserves an explanation for this.

    –James Howard Kunstler
    Author of “The Long Emergency.”

    [JR: That is amazing. I hope someone in the MSM picks up that story.]

  49. Mike Treder says:

    I watched the whole show and was quite impressed with it — surprisingly good, much better than I expected. Not completely realistic, but effective in conveying a powerful message that few viewers will ever have thought about.

    @ Jim Beacon: Biggest shocker of all was that NO time at all — 0% — was given over to denier/delayer talking points. Major kudos to ABC.

    My biggest complaint is that they portrayed a suitably frightening dystopian future of climate chaos and resource collapse but made no significant mention of emerging technologies. Where were the expected developments in biotech, nanotech, robotics, IT, neuro tech, cog sci, etc.? Perhaps they decided it would be too confusing to the average viewer, but it struck me as quite silly to portray people still driving cars, using cell phones, watching TV, and using computers in 2040 or 2050 that seemed almost exactly like what we have today. Huh?

    But with that quibble aside, it was a terrific show and a great service performed by the often irresponsible major media.

  50. Joe Leonardi says:

    I would have liked it if the program spent more time on the positive future possibilities. There are a lot of real interesting ideas and technologies out there that can be more inspiring than pushing the do nothing or do little dire path we are on. They only slightly touched on the one world concept which holds the solutions to changing our current course. Bucky Fuller’s “Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth” and “Utopia or Oblivion” discusses our choices and possibilities in detail. He was talking about this stuff over 40 years ago.

    What really needs to be explored that is standing in the way of creating a Utopian world are: our false pretense monetary based financial system, our incompetent political systems and our repressive religious institutions.

    Other than that I thought it was a good show that said a lot of what needed to be said. I just hope people don’t get too numbed by the fear factor and stick their status quo heads back in the sand.

  51. Chris Winter says:

    I thought the show did an adequate job of presenting a broad-brush picture of a very unpleasant scenario. (Yes, calling it “worst-case” is a stretch.)

    The selection of experts was good (but could have been better) and they generally had enough time to get their points out. But sometimes they didn’t, and I had trouble reading some of their names and positions.

    I liked the bit just before the final 15 minutes, with Lucy doing a voiceover to some song and a bunch of nature pictures. And that last quarter-hour was a good way to end on a hopeful note. Sure, it was a mostly emotional appeal, but there’s merit in that as a motivator for people who haven’t thought much about the problem before, or are borderline deniers.

    There are many details I could quibble over, such as why Lucy and her companions tended to travel south when the place they wanted to get to was to the north. But there’s little purpose in that.

  52. Kota says:

    I had it on google feed too, and missed it. :(

    Anyone know if it will be available to watch on line?

  53. Susan says:

    It’s available online now. Lots of other great stuff at the site too. Good backing, well presented, will get yells about alarmism but it’s not, and obviously so.

    I loved it. I particularly liked the decision point of 2015, which is both doable and subject to reality check. I think it likely that by then some of the idiots and know-nothings will be seeing some confirmation in their dooryards. Of course, wouldja bet they’ll be the first to scream for government intervention when it’s their homes and health?

    Glad they integrated disease; smart to make her a health-care provider to show that, and so she would be immune when the big one hits. I only noticed population down to 2-3 billion but I may have missed it. The point about total loss of quality of life was interesting, as was the gradual disappearance of all the stuff we’ve come to take for granted. I was also glad to see conflict well represented. People think immigration is all about culture but it’s much more about survival.

    I found some of the projections a bit on the moderate side compared to current events on the ground.

    Some complaints about the animation being a little Soviet-like, which I thought was fair though snippety.

  54. Susan says:

    Podesta was a surprise. He’s an attractive character and it was great to see he is well informed.

    [JR: He runs CAP, where I work, I can attest to your conclusion personally.]

  55. Rick Covert says:


    I read your book, ‘The Long Emergency’ but regret I have not read “The Geography of Nowhere.” I also read your post “Wishes Hopes and Fantasies.” I have lived in suburbs all my life but I have longed to live in an urban setting like the ones you describe in the New Urbanism civic planning and yet I live in the city limits of Houston in a typical suburban arrangement totally dependent on the car to get to work.

    My question is won’t it take at least 50 years to convert to walkable friendly urban living arragements given that it took 50 years to destroy the trollies, the inner city communities and build the roads and the assorted commerce infrastructure that comprises suburbia? In the meantime don’t we need EV’s just to get from here to there?

    We have some petit New Urbanist communities in Houston but they’re too expensive even for well paid professional people.

  56. Lisa says:

    I admit it was creepy watching how much could change in the next 20 to 30 years when i could very likely still be living and you can’t expect it to be entirely accurate. However, there are so many who are in deep denial and need to see the reality even of whats’ going on right now with these climate problems. I agree that we need a much more in depth Ken Burns style documentary series (perhaps for a whole TV season) that gives the cold hard facts that we have now and breaks down the many issues affected by the climate like shortage of food, water and oil; etc. etc. Done in a very serious intelligent way with the current facts layed out and examples we have now (like the extreme dryness in austalia that has become much worse recently). There will always be foolish deniers but a documentary format like that would make it much harder for them to make any case. I hope we will see a show like that soon. I appreciated the intent of this show, but it was far too vague in many ways, if anything downplayed the violence you would see( I know i wouldn’t make it driving through mobs of desparate armed hungry people like they did) and didn’t come off as realistic as it could have. I hope this will urge the main networks to come up with better shows on this subject. I’m not sure how much you can deny if you’re left sitting under a bridge with no water to be found, 20 dollar per gallon gas, and noone to listen. I hope to God we can come up with better solutions than the show, and be a liittle less selfish for the future generations who will be facing this problem head on. I’d rather die saying i at least tried a little instead of gobbling up everything in sight and living like a greedy pig. Those of us still in 30’s or younger will have more of this as we get older so we better deal with it now based on what we know so far. And deniars, if you have nothing to give then go back to your mtv and mcdonalds and leave us akone. I’m sure God will be so proud you sat and did nothing. God bless everyone who’s trying.

  57. Gail says:

    I’m lately speculating as to which will drive a new direction in policy first…either a few major cities suddenly having no water – perhaps LA, or Vegas, or Atlanta (which will make rich and powerful people go berserk because they can’t take long showers, water their lawns and landscaped beds, or play golf)…and/or, there will be a series of extreme weather events that are so unprecedented people will have no choice but to connect them to AGW. Like tornados in cities, and this:

    or else, food shortages?

    It’s just exhausting, trying to decide. I guess, we’ll all just have to reconcile ourselves to watch the events unfold.

    And keep agitating in the meanwhile, of course.

    I would love to see some producer tackle a series on the teevee – or another feature length film – that merges JR’s book Hell and High Water and the information in Fred Pearce’s book With Speed and Violence. The science is fascinating and indisputable.

  58. L says:

    While this show can serve as a wakeup call to the general population (I hope!), it is hardly the worst case scenario at all. In my opinion, it is not even half as scary as the PBS Nova episode, “Global Dimming”! That IS the show to watch if you want to lose sleep over something!

  59. quakergardener says:

    Post viewing comment:

    (Having read books by most of the experts interviewed, and having centered my life around environmental concerns, very little was new to me, and since I rarely watch tv, didn’t even know the show was to be aired.)

    However, I was getting a haircut, and my hairdresser had on the tv. She knows of my interest in such things, so she asked me to stay and watch it with her. I found that the program really resonated with her, in particular the graphic framing narrative about Lucy and Josh. During the show she took several phone calls and told her friends to turn it on. After the show she told me she plans to contact her town’s government about certain issues.

    I think this show was a great way to get the message across to folks who may not have much exposure to discussion of the fate of the earth in their everyday lives, and in an emotionally meaningful format. We all understand and internalize stories more easily and deeply than we do “talking head” analysis or opinion. (Of course the “business as usual” ads provided an ironic counterpoint, but programming must be paid for.)

    I plan to get a copy to show to some of my students, many of whom start at 0 when it comes to educated environmental awareness.

    It will take all we’ve got to move our collective path away from the grim scenario depicted.

  60. Walt Johansson says:

    I can not read the above material because the print is tiny and not clear!

  61. Ted says:

    “Great Britain has had gasoline costs above seven dollars a gallon for many years and the life goes on.”

    You seem to have missed the point he is making. GB has a massive network of trains that fill the same function that large highways do between suburbs and the urban centers. There are reasonable options to the personal automobile unlike on this side of the pond.

  62. Susan says:

    Ted, I’m all for public transit but have you ever tried to get around GB on trains and buses? It’s far from well designed and organized. Many towns get a stop or two a week, and the trains are expensive unless you order online ahead of time. Last I was there a third of Cornwall/Devon was dropped while I was there. I did not find their public transit any better than ours, and in some cases worse.

    A push for better public transit would be superb, excellent, fine, wonderful, etc. Let’s do it.

  63. Rick says:

    Re 2 previous comments on ABC’s “technical difficulties”,
    I too found that the KOLO (Reno) audio channel was dead.

    (I turned it off quickly, so don’t know if the commercials,
    in contrast, had their usual annoying high volume!)

  64. Chris Winter says:


    What kind of browser are you using? You should be able to make the text larger.

  65. Michael says:

    Unfortunately I was unavailable to watch the program, but Barb from our NJ Environmental Working Group did watch it and posted a review on our blog at“Earth_2100__The_Final_Century_of_Civilization”.html

  66. Lennart van der Linde says:

    Icarus, besides Lovelock also John Schellnhuber has warned that with business-as-usual Earth may not be able to carry more than 1 billion people later this century (see his presentation last March at the big climate science conference in Copenhagen).

  67. K. Nockels says:

    A late comment I know but I was re-reading Hell and High Water, The Long Emergency, and With Speed and Violence, The show was great to see on network TV and really designed for shock and aimed at those who have not been paying attention. I am afraid that it will be much worse than they portrayed simplily because there are a lot more converging problems then they had time to show. I suspect the next 5yrs. will begin to show us the true depth of our delema, with tipping points being reached in many area’s of concern, 1) food production losses due to drought/floods, 2) summer time ice loss and heat waves with deaths 3) CC affects in other countries that will directly inpact the US/mass movment of populations 4) Peak Oil/reality bites here as we try to recover from the current economic troubles. My best advice to our children, grandchildren and friends is Personal Responsibility. Stay Informed & inform others, Get your lifes ordered so whats coming is not devastating, be pro-active in the community Make your voices heard. TEACH THE CHILDREN

  68. Thanks for sharing :)