The buildings, towns, and cities we live in are slowly transforming as we use technology to make our lives more comfortable. Voice and AI controlled heating, lighting, white goods, entertainment, personal assistants are already taking over the home. Will climate change have an accelerating effect on this transition? In the future, technology might not just help us live more comfortable lives, but it might also protect us from extreme weather. If climate change means that living in the way we do now, under the sky, exposed to the elements, becomes precarious because of rising temperatures and the regularity of super storms, the wealthy might invest in ways to protect themselves.
Ideas and experiments to date, led by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the University of Arizona, explored the feasibility of humans living in outer space. The International Space Station is a closed, self-sufficient system for supporting human life. In Russia, a project run by the Institute of Biophysics created an underground closed ecosystem to support three humans. The Eden Project, an educational project and tourist attraction in Cornwall, UK, is a biodome, simulating different ecosystems. In Dubai, a project to build the ‘Mall of the World’ a city under glass to protect people from 45 degrees Celsius summer temperatures, was scaled back when the investment didn’t materialise.
Imagine, though, if climate change pushed temperatures in southern Asia, as some predict, above what is tolerable to humans by the end of this century? What if in the next century that happens in the Western world too?
Sceptics talk about the fabulous cost and impracticality of such domed cities at scale, but a combination of scientific advances, in particular, the creation of new materials, and dire necessity are likely to be the drivers to create artificial ecosystems to protect at least the wealthiest people within the next few hundred years.
Such cities could make use of bioengineering research being carried out today by organisations like NASA and will likely include closed system water recycling, atmosphere revitalisation advanced waste management, synthetic biology, and sustainable energy production.