The Black Book of Carmarthen, mentions a mythical lost land — an Atlantis. David Willis, Jesus Professor of Celtic at the University of Oxford, uncovered a map that has its origins around 1280, held in the collections of the Bodleian. This map remains the earliest surviving complete map of the British Isles. Called “The Gough Map”, it is strangely accurate given the tools available to cartographers at that time. Two islands are clearly marked on the Gough Map, and may corroborate contemporary accounts of a lost land mentioned in the Black Book of Carmarthen. This medieval map is clearly the place where the facts fit the myth. Even stranger is the idea that a feudal map can point to the future more than it points out the past. Two of Tuvalu’s nine islands are on the threshold of being swallowed by the sea. Rising sea levels, drought and flash floods superimposed by heatwaves are now occurring with increasing intensity and frequency.

Over the last two decades, the boom in international trade has seen an exponential increase in the volumes transported using inland watercourses.  But droughts are now disrupting global shipping. Along the Danube in Serbia, shrinking water levels have unveiled the sunken remains of World War II ships. Stones now face the sun on the banks of the river Elbe, which flows from the Czech Republic through Germany. Etched at the waterline of the Elbe, humans telegraph future generations that when these stones are visible above water, hardships are near. Known as the “hunger stones”, they tote messages from previous droughts. One stone, which was first carved during the 15th Century, also surfaced in 1616, when locals carved into it the lamentation, “if you see me, cry”.

Drought has forced vessels to lighten their loads to ensure safe passage along shallow water channels. Even empty vessels are now unable to navigate the Franco-German section of the Rhine river due to low water levels. On the Rhine, Europe’s largest commercial river, with 300 million tons of goods transported annually, the loading of barges has been reduced by seventy-five per cent to avoid running aground and bringing river traffic to a standstill. Rather than 3,000 tonnes of cargo, barges now pull 400 to 500 tonnes to avert running aground at Kaub where the river is shallowest.

Consequently, shipping traffic is down by seven per cent, and prices of goods have risen. Some carriers and clients find the cost too high in relation to the transport and have shifted to rail and eighteen-wheeler trucks. Using trucks for transport is more expensive than boats, but trucks are now benefitting from lower levels of water in waterways, and the higher prices of river transport. A river barge can transport far more goods than a truck and is less polluting. A barge usually carries the equivalent load of sixty trucks. To ensure that ships lie straight in the water, loading is now loaded in the forward area, as propulsion is aft. This also means that empty vessels can’t navigate the waterways.

Already the loosely coupled linkages are lucid among:- sustained periods of high temperatures; power cuts for buildings using blush lighting; management of every unit of water; threats to crop production; staggering the irrigation of fields; seeding of clouds to induce rain; load shedding to cope with the surge in demand as residents crank up air-conditioning to deal with temperature surges; industrial power cuts as water levels drop in hydroelectric plants; and delays and shortages as droughts disrupt supply chains and global shipping routes along rivers.

To put it in comparable terms, The McKinsey Sustainability Report, titled “The net-zero transition: What it would cost, what it could bring”, estimates that the transition for the global economy to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 needs $9.2 trillion in annual average investment on physical assets, which exceeds the investment today by about $3.5 trillion. That increase corresponds to fifty per cent of global corporate profits and twenty-five per cent of total tax revenue in 2020. McKinsey anticipates that spending would be front-loaded and the impact will be uneven across economies and sectors.

In addition, the report presages that the seven energy and land-use systems that account for the majority of global emissions—power, industry, mobility, construction, agriculture, forestry, and waste management—will need to be transformed. Another critical challenge to the transition is energy supply volatility, even though this is an era of fresh frontiers. While the transition would reduce the odds of triggering the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, it will birth new opportunities for growth, as decarbonization opens fresh markets for low-emissions products and services.

Accelerating the decarbonization agenda requires a shift in the energy mix away from fossil fuels and toward zero-emissions electricity and other low-emissions energy sources like hydrogen; adjusting industrial and agricultural processes; managing energy demand and improving energy efficiency; building a circular economy; replacing high emissions products and processes with low emissions ones; and deploying carbon capture, utilization, and storage technology. On his visit to Barbados in October 2021, Secretary General, António Guterres, said that, “We need to include the future in the decisions that we take today.”