17 April 2010

What happens if the ash stays over Europe for a year?

What happens if the ash stays over Europe for a year?: "

One of the standard parts of futurism is to conduct mind experiments to explore scenarios. At the moment there are no air flights over most of Northern Europe, because of volcanic ash. The ash is being caused by a eruptions in Iceland, at the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano.

According to the news services it seems the most likely event is that it will clear up over the next few days and things will get back to normal, but with a massive, further, hit to the profits of airlines.

But what if it does not clear up? The last time this volcano erupted was 1821, and that time it lasted for a year.

So, perhaps we should consider 3 scenarios:

It clears up in a few days and does not return. This would simply make it like a bad weather incident, or a strike. It would have few long term implications.

It clears up, but returns for a few days at a time for a year or two. This would start to chip away at Europe’s standing in the world. Businesses, conferences, organisations would probably change the balance of how much they were focusing on Europe, in favour of other locations. Tourism could be hit very hard, both in-bound and out-bound.

The problem lasts a year (or more). This could result in the business, academic, and social isolation of Europe. Companies would ‘temporarily’ move headquarters to other locations, conferences would be held elsewhere, tourism would shift from planes to trains, with major consequences. It is likely that there would be rush to develop technology, looking for remote meetings, distance teaching, and for modifications to planes to make them able to fly through the cloud. This scenario would be very bad for Europe; it would be a major acceleration in its slide into irrelevance.