THE NEW DARK AGE
The year is 2050.
The world's governments have failed to prevent the worst effects of climate change. In the last forty years, global warming has turned over 60% of the world's farmland into desert, forcing 150 million "climate refugees" to relocate. With less arable land and hotter temperatures, there are fewer crops. There is not enough land to raise livestock. With the human population at 9 billion, there is a global food crisis -- 25 million more children have joined the ranks of the world's hungry.
The discrepancy between the rich and the poor has become more pointed. Walled, zero-carbon cities like Masdar in Abu Dhabi have cropped up around the globe, ironically fueled by oil money, which will run out when the world's oil reserves dry up in 2057. These walled "greenopolises" -- mostly located in new inland deserts formed by climate change-induced desertification -- have become oases for the rich, while the vast majority of the world's population gathers around the remaining few viable coastlines that haven't been eroded by the rise in sea level.
A lack of freshwater in inland communities in places like America's breadbasket and central Australia has forced out the lower and middle classes. The infrastructures of coastal megacities like Guangdong, China, are in danger of collapsing from overpopulation.
WIDESPREAD BIODIVERSITY LOSS
The so called "Sixth Extinction" has come and gone. While humans continue to multiply at a rapid rate, a million species have been wiped out, including a third of non-human primates. Natural food chains around the globe are disrupted. The melting polar caps have caused a global sea level rise of several feet, causing the flooding of low level farmland with saltwater. Much land is rendered infertile. Grazing animals have died out. Large mammals no longer exist. Elephants, polar bears, bison, wild horses, lions and tigers have been extinct for two decades.
Almost all marine life is gone. Big fish like tuna and cod have long been overfished. Sharks have become extinct due to the increased demand for shark-fin soup, driven primarily by China, which is struggling to feed a fifth of the world's human population. Whales went extinct in 2045, finally succumbing to the whale meat industry, led primarily by consumer demand in Japan, as well as Iceland and Norway.
Wild salmon went extinct in 2030, succumbing to diseases brought by escaped farmed salmon, diseases that were borne out of unsanitary aquaculture conditions in fish farms off the coast of California, Scotland and Canada. As a result of the loss of wild salmon and of increased trophy hunting, North American black bears and grizzly bears have become extinct.
Oil spills have become common, as paleo-energy companies rush to derive the last bits of fossil fuel from the world's rapidly disappearing oil reserves. Many ocean-going migratory birds have gone extinct, trapped in oil slicks by the millions or dying from the lack of fish to eat. Ocean acidification, floating plastic garbage and oil gushing daily into open water have turned the global marine environment into a massive dead zone.
The meat industry (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, veal and chicken) now serves primarily the wealthy class, as governments around the world have shut down large scale unsustainable animal agribusiness due to the fact that it once caused 51% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. In 2010, the 1.5 billion cows that were on Earth produced two billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents annually. Today, there are only a few million cows raised for food for the rich. Fast food chains like McDonald's have gone out of business. The average cost of a hamburger, made from beef sourced from the world's few remaining animal farms, is $50 USD.