What Will Our World Look Like in 2050?


USC researchers say confronting reality and taking local action may help humanity cope — and even spur economies and innovation.

IT’S 2050, AND another balmy day in Los Angeles. A young woman steps outside and puts on her air filtration mask. The air is thick with smog, which aggravates her asthma. As she hurries to get into an air-conditioned, self-driving car, she wonders if the temperature will finally dip below 90 degrees today — for the first time this November.

One hundred miles northwest, a third-generation vineyard owner finishes packing up his family and saying goodbye to the land. It has become too hot to produce his Pinot Noir grapes anymore — all the nearby vineyards now grow wheat to fit the hotter weather. He is heading to Oregon’s cooler climes to start again.

Meanwhile, on the coast, a boy and his grandfather walk along the beach, careful not to touch the water. A telltale bright red stain in the waves warns them of a toxic algal bloom. The water level has risen a little bit over the years, and the grandfather wonders how much land will still be above water when his grandson reaches his age.

By 2050, climate change and its reality will no longer be up for debate. The subtle signs we’re starting to see around us will be more pronounced, scientists say, and their impact will be easy to spot in everyday life. The warming trend can feel overwhelming to understand, much less confront — especially with so many factors believed to affect how the planet is changing. But there’s good news: Humanity has tools to shape our future, USC researchers say, and some are already working in places across the globe.

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