Archie Harrison Montbatten-Windsor, the new royal baby with a funny name and title, has sucked the oxygen out of the news cycle this week. If the headlines are any indicator, the Western world is far more concerned about the fate of a baby they’ve never met than about a million species facing extinction and fossil fuels being extremely bad. As Matchbox 20 frontman and apparently astute media critic Rob Thomas put it, “so happy for ole Harry and Meghan but maybe that short attention span doesn’t help our awareness about global warming?”
Look, I’m not a royal baby person, but I am a firm believer in building bridges. And the heat death of the planet impacts everyone, royal heritage notwithstanding. So let’s take this moment to see if we can’t prove Thomas wrong by talking about the climate crisis young Archie will face and how different the UK will be on Archie’s 18th birthday.
The UK Met Office created a series of climate projections called UKCP18 for the country last year. The projections come in 30 years chunks, so we centred its analysis around the period from 2030-2059.
If global carbon emissions continue to rise—something they did last year after a few years of stability at already high levels—the UK could face a much hotter future and higher seas, suffer from regular flooding and heat waves. Summers in London, home to Buckingham Palace, could be up to 3 degrees warmer. Research based on previous projections by the UK-based Committee on Climate Change shows that the 2003 heat wave that killed an estimated 2,000 people could become the norm by 2040.
I’m sure the royals have some country estate to escape to in Scotland, which will see a relatively minor temperature increase. That could be a more comfortable locale and more easily defensible if (or more likely when) protesters come knocking. At the same time, sea levels could be around 10 inches higher as well, so hopefully their country estate isn’t on the ocean.
Projections also show winters will be warmer and wetter, while summers could dry out a bit. That’s also a recipe for more wildfires like those that ravaged the UK last year and again this spring in an unprecedented series of blazes. In short, the climate Archie was born into in 2019 will be noticeably different and less chaotic than the one he’ll face as an adult.
These trends will only continue to grow more extreme, and if he lives as long as his great grandmother, he could see a completely different UK by 2100. London, for example, could have summers like those in Milan today that are a full 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit (4.8 degrees Celsius) warmer.
Of course if we’re being serious, Archie will be fine. He’s rich and will be insulated from the impacts of climate change in ways average Britons won’t be (to say nothing of those in the developing world).
Probably the best thing we can hope for is Archie forsaking the high carbon royal lifestyle. Maybe he’ll even become an advocate for change like young adults today or sell the crown jewels to pay for the clean energy transition. The world could certainly use it.