Three Possible Climate Futures

RethinkX Clean Disruption graph

Following on from a U3A lecture on the ‘carbon bomb’ threat posed in future world plans for the development of oil and gas it occurred to me that there are a number of other future ‘possibilities’ and to a large extent these were mutually exclusive. Needless to say the ‘carbon bomb’ future is thoroughly depressing. Two others that I have in mind are the renewables superpower revolution as outlined by Tony Seba (many of his videos on youtube worth a watch) and Paul Gilding’s climate contagion.

Gilding’s ‘climate contagion’ is where economic collapse occurs when the “climate emergency meets financial contagion’ and he is convinced it will occur before 2025. The four preconditions he lists for the contagion to occur are “1. Clean technology is available, scalable, superior and investable. 2. Physical climate change is obvious and accelerating. 3. Public engagement and political momentum are rapidly turning [and] 4. The financial markets are primed”. The recent ‘climate election’ in Australia is a good example of turning ‘public engagement and political momentum’, as is the board turmoil in AGL our largest coal generator. If ‘climate contagion’ eventuates the ‘carbon bomb’ will have been avoided, but will probably usher in political instability and reaction in its wake.

Tony Seba concentrates on Gilding’s point one – the clean technology revolution and argues that this will take place solely by market forces and have occurred by 2030. Seba (and his think tank RethinkX) adds that with government assistance the transformation will happen more quickly and is essentially a message of hope though it too involves the complete disruption of the fossil fuel industry.  Based on a number of factors that converge to encourage exponential growth in solar and wind energy and batteries the clean technology disruption is inevitable. I hope to present the Seba solution in more detail in a later blog.

Essentially we must change rapidly to 400% wind and solar and batteries to cover our stillest, cloudiest, shortest winter days. But for most of the year there will be superabundant energy at very low cost. Whilst there may be delays (and disruptions) to the clean technology future it is what the earth needs, and most of those fossil fuel proposals in the development pipeline – the carbon bomb – will be stranded assets.