Two Steps Forward and One Back

This past week, the Evergreen Writers Group pulled off their virtual book launch for Water’s Edge, our latest anthology. The suddenly increasing cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia gave us a scare. The library that had offered us a room for the launch had to withdraw the offer at the last minute when they were forced to close their meeting rooms. We shifted to a Zoom format and soldiered on. I think it went well. We created a little interest in our book (and our earlier ones) in several retailers and generated a few sales on Amazon.

I’m now focused on The Road to Environmental Armageddon, my work in progress. I’ve added a prologue that describes an important event from fifteen years before the start time for the novel.

Here for those interested in a sneak peek is my draft of the prologue. I hope it will catch readers attention and draw them into the rest of the book. I’d welcome comments if anyone has any.

The Road to Environmental Armageddon

Prologue

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Thursday, July 22, 2027

After entering his Dalhousie University office at 8:30, Dan Delacour scanned the morning newsfeeds. One quick look for news about the crazy events unfolding over the last few days, and I’ll focus on my thesis project.

The headline ‘Binding Climate Accord Stuns World’ grabbed his attention. The dateline said Tokyo, 1400 hrs, which meant it was five and a half hours old. It hadn’t been on his favourite Canadian news site when he ate breakfast an hour earlier.

An hour later, he’d pieced together the story. After secret negotiations, the leaders of all twenty G20 countries pledged to meet their 2015 Paris Climate Accord targets by 2030. Plans for individual countries would roll out during the day. That meant plans for the Asian countries, Russia, and South Africa must be available. European plans would be imminent, and those for North and South America expected over the next few hours. He gulped the last of his now cold coffee and resumed his search.

Steve Matthews appeared in Dan’s doorway. His fellow oceanography student was an acerbic little guy who was often Dan’s closest ally in discussions related to climate change. “Just getting in after spending hours fixated on the news. What do you think?”

“Fascinating. Will they finally do something useful?”

“Don’t know, but it should generate interesting conversations in the pub tomorrow afternoon.” Steve pulled back a step. “Gotta go. Deadline to meet, and I’m far from finished.”

Steve disappeared, and Dan returned to his perusal of the breaking news.

The formal announcement on what would later become known as Global Climate Action Day described three major thrusts. First, coal and heavy oil usage would be severely restricted. Within a few years, non-fossil fuel sources would replace coal-generated power. Their goal was the complete elimination of electrical power generated by burning fossil fuels.

Their next target was the heating of homes and other buildings. Natural gas, electricity, and various non-fossil fuel sources would replace coal and oil. They didn’t mandate elimination of fossil fuels for heating, but their projections described significant reductions. The situation for transportation was similar. Much less petroleum for cars, trucks, and trains.

Dan imagined buy-in from the European Union, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, and a few others. They’d long sounded progressive on climate change while making some, usually inadequate, efforts to tackle the problem. He couldn’t swallow serious commitments by China, India, Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and especially the United States.

The US had been a serious backslider since 2017 when Donald Trump became president. China and India had been worse, using increased reliance on coal to fuel their burgeoning economies. Could China, the United States, and India, the three largest carbon emitters and coal consumers, meet the deadlines?

In Canada, government subsidization of heavy-oil production had frustrated efforts to reduce emissions. The multibillion-dollar subsidies undermined efforts to appear progressive on climate change. Would this initiative result in rapid removal of these subsidies? If so, the reductions in heavy-oil production would help Canada meet its greenhouse gas targets.

Dan fetched another coffee from the graduate student’s common room. He then switched gears, forcing himself to work on his research project.

Late in the afternoon, he returned to sites promising technical details of targets, timelines, and mechanisms for the push to meet the 2030 climate change targets. Would they answer questions percolating through his mind as he tried to focus on work? He read while willing Elena Llewellyn, his significant other, to appear. They’d embarked on a crazy whirlwind romance on the day the current fixation with climate change action approached the crescendo culminating in today’s announcements. She was a political science student whose perspective on the unfolding events would be interesting. At five, he shut down his computer and gathered together the fruits of his investigations.

He met her outside the house he was minding for his sister. “Glad you’re here. Masses of crazy stuff we should discuss. You keeping track?”

She theatrically wiped her brow. “Quick swim, then I’m ready to discuss the day’s events.”

Dan followed her, picking up clothes she shed on her way through the house. They’d only been living together for a week, but he’d already become accustomed to her dislike of swimsuits.

He stopped in the kitchen to pour himself a glass of wine. He carried the bottle and a second glass to the pool deck, where he settled back to watch his Welsh nymph.

Fog crept in as he sipped his wine. He slipped inside and fetched a towel.

Elena gazed at the sky after climbing from the pool. She shivered as Dan wrapped the towel around her shoulders. “What happened to my beautiful afternoon?”

“Fog.”

“Late in the summer for fog?”

“Never too late for fog in Halifax. When the fog rolls in, everyone retreats inside.”

Minutes later, Elena stood inside the patio door, rubbing her hair. Her clothes sat on a kitchen chair and her wineglass on the table. She didn’t appear interested in either. “What do you make of today’s announcements?”

Dan poured himself a second glass before responding. “National plans are detailed and comprehensive. Were teams working on them for months, not days, as suggested by various events last weekend?”

“Like your panic trip to Ottawa?”

From his perch at the end of the kitchen counter, he stared at the fog swirling around the pool. “That and the fuss about aliens. They make no sense if governments have been negotiating this agreement for months. But how did they keep everything quiet?”

“I find the secrecy fascinating. How did they hide the meetings and communication?”

He strode into the living room and sat on the sofa. “There’s no denying they did, but can they keep it together and accomplish the ambitious goals they’ve set themselves? And will all twenty countries stay the course?”

Elena followed after picking up her wine. She smiled before settling onto the sofa and snuggling against him. “What does it mean for us?”

He wrapped his left arm around her, cupping a breast. “A terrible future where no one can afford clothes. We’ll all be as naked as you.”

She laughed as she leaned into him. “Sounds bad for population control. But seriously, the changes they’re describing are huge. Can global economies cope?”

“Economics, political science, the psychology of groups, those are your fields. Most of the scientific and engineering changes they’ve described are workable.”

“They’ll have severe economic repercussions.”

“I suspect that’s part of their plan. Crash ahead with the big changes they’ve announced. Live with the inevitable recession they cause.” Brows furrowed, he sipped his wine. “A recession will reduce carbon emissions. The proposed changes in electrical generation and transportation infrastructure will kick start the long-term move to lower emissions.”

“Crikey! Draconian. Will the citizens stand for it?”

Dan placed her now-empty wineglass on the end table and pushed her onto the sofa. He hovered over her. “God knows, but the scientists will have done their job when we put the brakes on our runaway carbon emissions. The politicians and you social scientists can determine how society deals with the new reality. And I have another question about today’s announcement.”

She squirmed out from under him. “Time I got dressed, and we organized dinner.”

He smiled. Would a little macho male muscle-flexing stop her naked shenanigans when they had serious matters to discuss? “If you insist.”

Elena stir-fried accumulated leftover vegetables and laid out French bread and slices of deli meats and cheeses.

“What’s your next big question?” she asked as they sat down to their meal.

“How did our global political leaders pull off this agreement? Did an external trigger like the implausible alien influence force them to act?”

“Or did they finally act on years of scientific advice?”

“Doubt it. Something sparked this remarkable agreement. What was it?”

Elena picked at her food. “Do you need a specific trigger? World leaders have communications pathways, and the Davos Conferences bring political, academic, and business leaders together.”

After dinner, Elena stood by the pool, staring into the distance. When Dan joined her, she turned and strode inside without comment. Was she hiding something related to his question about triggers?

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