Climate Finance | May 5, 2017

Climate change is fiction, in New York 2140

The team at


Sea levels have risen 50 feet, submerging much of New York City. But 40 years after the climate crisis of 2100, life in Gotham has settled into a new normal. “Every street has become a canal; every skyscraper an island, linked by sky bridges and boat taxis.” That’s the future sketched by Kim Stanley Robinson in his new novel, New York 2140.

In an interview, Robinson makes clear that while the climate scenario is futuristic, the choices we face are immediate. “I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change,” he told New York magazine.

“All science-fiction novels are about the future and about the present at the same time,” he added.

Indeed, climate change is already here: 2016 was the hottest year on record, devastating bleaching is killing the Great Barrier Reef, Arctic ice continues to shrink.

Even the global climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015 won’t limit the rise of global temperatures to two degrees Celsius, and the U.S. commitment to the agreement is seriously in doubt. What comes next?

“When things get really bad, society, [Robinson] seems to suggest, can still manage to survive,” write reviewers in The Verge. “It’s a setting that feels completely real, vibrant, and visceral as he takes us up and down a city that’s adapted to water life: buildings have installed waterproofing measures and garages for boats, while people walk overhead in skywalks that connect the buildings to one another.”