Cli-fi: The Fiction of Climate Change

Kate Kelly - Red Rock
Category: Reading

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the effects that human activity has on our planet it is hardly surprising that writers are exploring this in fiction.

Although we know that the climate is changing it is very difficult to predict precisely what the longer term effects might be. Some may be localised, others more global. Maybe nothing will happen at all.

But the fiction of climate change assumes the worst. And so here are five possible fictional futures – all of which could happen is we keep on exploiting our planet without a thought for future generations. 

  1. The ice sheets melt and sea levels rise: We can already see this happening. The glaciers are retreating and the Arctic Ice pack is at an all time summer low. Scientists predict that if the Greenland ice sheet should melt completely global sea levels will rise by about 7 metres, and if the Antarctic should become ice free, that sea level rise could be as much as 70 metres. This is the future watery world predicted in Exodus by Julie Bertagna.
  1. Europe enters a new ice age. It seems ironic that global warming could cause an ice age but this is something that could quite possibly happen to Europe. It is only the warm northwards flowing waters of the Gulf Stream that gives us our temperate climate. But should the Gulf Stream shut down all this warmth could disappear and Europe and the British Isles would be thrust into unending winter. This is the icy future described in After the Snow by SD Crockett.
  1. Deforestation: The rainforests are sometimes referred to as the lungs of the Earth, and they are play a vital part in balancing our atmosphere. Yet we are cutting down these forests – cutting away our planet’s lungs, faster than they can be replaced. A world without trees would be a world without air – the world of Breathe by Sarah Crossan.
  1. Endless drought: One of the predicted outcomes is that, as the world warms, our weather will become more extreme. This could result in massive localised storms and flooding in one region whilst another area suffers prolonged drought, and it is just such a drought that Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien is set against.
  1. Finally we mustn’t forget the social impacts as humans attempt to deal with the crisis. Perhaps we have already passed the point of no return and there is nothing we can do to stop the inevitable – or perhaps the Governments of the world will decide to take drastic action. The society we live in could change around us, just like in The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd.

Climate change is a major issue of our times, but it is our children who will be around to see whether the worst predictions come true. It is a legacy they will have to deal with. I expect that we will start to see more climate change fiction as the changes around us become more apparent. And what better way to become aware of the possible outcomes, than through literature.

Curious about how climate change is impacting teen fiction? Check out Kate’s list of 9 Teen Cli-Fi Novels.

Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly was born in Edinburgh, and studied Geology at Dundee University. Further studies in Oceanography led into a career in Marine Science. Kate now lives in Dorset with her family. Red Rock is her first novel, published 2013 by Curious Fox.