Pack a lifeboat for your next trip to Thailand, and if you forget one, improvise. Rising sea temperatures may already have doubled the intensity of tropical storms worldwide, and tsunamis are predicted to become more frequent as the polar ice caps melt and redistribute weight on the Earth’s crust, triggering undersea earthquakes. In the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, nearly 230,000 people were swept away. On a 21st-century holiday, one sudden, giant wave may leave you out at sea.
When disaster strikes, paddle far. By 2057, there will be 900 million more people in South Asia, and, with the area’s crop yields expected to fall a third by 2100, they’ll be starving. Best not drift west, though. African countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and Europeans won’t want to go home, either†. A four degree Celsius rise in world temperatures would see coastal European cities battling rising seas, while inlanders suffer in extreme heat, similar to the 2003 heat wave that left 14,000 French people dead.
If you go East, avoid the Philippines, ranked the world’s most disaster-prone nation by Belgian researchers, and beware of the Americas, where millions of thirsty South and Central Americans will be on the move due to drought as early as the 2020s.
Instead, navigate north to the Bering Strait. Late-summer Arctic sea ice may have almost entirely disappeared by the end of the 21st century, so float right through to Greenland, which by 2060 may be a pleasant eight degrees Celsius warmer. Thanks to climate change, Greenland added two weeks to its growing season in 2007 compared to the 1970s, so settle down and start farming. Welcome to the new New World.
† As the world heats up and floods spread, the Anopheles mosquito will be able to travel north out of Africa, spreading malaria through Europe, where as many as 400 million more people could be infected. No malaria vaccine currently exists.
How to get around in a flood
Water moving at just three kilometers an hour is capable of sweeping away a car. Avoid driving through flooded areas in a wheeled vehicle, unless it looks like this one.
As little as 15 centimeters of rushing water can knock you off balance. Wherever possible, try to keep both feet rooted firmly to the ground.
Floodwater is also flush water, fresh from the sewer, home to many of your local rats. If rat urine touches an abrasion on your skin it can cause leptospirosis, a disease that can lead to meningitis, or death.
Children are especially prone to hypothermia and just a few minutes trapped in cold water can result in mental confusion, shivering and even death. Make sure they keep moving to stay warm.
Pets in floods are likely to die from abandonment, drowning, drinking contaminated water and being hit by debris. Saving yours only requires two plastic bottles and some tape.
Air is free, readily available, and some of the best stuff you can sit on to stay afloat. Styrofoam and balsa wood are packed with trapped air, making them particularly good materials for raft building.
The most lethal danger in a flood is contaminated water, which can lead to outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases. Stock plastic bottles of drinking water in your home, and don’t throw away the empties. They’re more useful than you might think.
Rigging a lawnmower motor and makeshift propeller to your raft will make you more mobile. But it will also make you dependent on gasoline, often the first major resource to run dry in a flood.