THE CLIMATE-ENERGY CHALLENGE: What is the problem and what can we do about it? Energy Matters Summit The Business of Energy Management Mississauga, Ontario April 26 2010 Thomas Homer-Dixon Balsillie School of International Affairs Waterloo, Canada
Energy and Population
Energy and Society
Energy should be seen as the
Two views of energy:
1. Fuel 2. Enabler of complexity
Three key facts: Higher oil prices spur exploration, but the relationship to discovery is much less clear; Decline rates of mature fields are estimated to be 6 to 9 percent a year; and, To cover this decline and meet a modest increase in demand, 64 million barrels per day of additional oil production capacity (six times the output of Saudi Arabia) must be brought on stream by 2030, 30 mb/d by 2015.
â€œBy 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015 the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.â€?
â€œA severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India. At best, it would lead to periods of harsh economic adjustment.â€?
Producing energy costs energy This principle is best understood through the concept of
Energy Return on Investment (EROI)
Weâ€™re shifting from a world of abundant high-EROI energy to one of scarce, mixed-EROI energy Just at the time We need vast additional amounts of cheap energy to solve our increasingly difficult problems
Peak Oil and Climate
CLIMATE AND FOOD
VULNERABILITY OF THE GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEM
China requires about 450 million tons of grain each year World grain trade is about 200 million tons An intervention by China on world grain markets for only 20 percent of its needs would absorb 50 percent of grain on world markets
WEAKENING OF EAST ASIAN MONSOON
CO2 emissions (PgC y-1)
Components of FF Emissions
2 Gas 1 Cement 0 1990
Le Quéré et al. 2009, Nature-geoscience
Fossil Fuel Emissions: Actual vs. IPCC Scenarios
Fossil Fuel Emission (GtC y )
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center International Energy Agency
A1FI A1T A2
6 5 1990
Raupach et al. 2007, PNAS, updated; Le Quéré et al. 2009, Nature-geoscience; International Monetary Fund 2009
Oil Price Dynamics at Peak • Extreme volatility • Sensitivity to exogenous shocks • Recession cycles • Eventually, demand destruction and price collapse?
In this new world, what should we do?
ONE POSSIBLE RESPONSE:
Why we resist change
REASONS FOR RESISTENCE TO CHANGE
• Cognitive: Availability bias • Psychological: Motivated bias • Economic: Poor price signals • Social: Vested interests • Political: Short time horizons
Why we will change
In coming decades, energy prices will steadily rise relative to costs of other goods and services, because of:
â€˘ Carbon pricing â€˘ Tightening supply of xxconventional oil
AS ENERGY PRICES RISE: • People, materials, and products will travel less • Production will move closer to consumption; material trade will decline • Populations will concentrate in small but dense communities with ready access to agricultural land • Megacities may become unviable
IMPLICATIONS: • The cost differential between locally produced goods and those produced far away will decline and may even reverse • Stores will be smaller, embedded in communities, and within walking or biking distance • Work will be diverse, because communities will have to supply a larger fraction of all their needs.
Coping with Carbon Strategies from conventional to radical (assuming a significant carbon price) • Efficiency and conservation • Renewables (GSHPs) • Coal with CCS and nuclear • Unconventional technologies (UCG, enhanced geothermal, stratospheric windmills) • Atmospheric carbon capture • Geoengineering • Shifting away from conventionally defined “growth”
GENERAL PURPOSE TECHNOLOGY TRANSITIONS
• Railroads • Electricity • Internal combustion engine • Personal computer
Comparative Power Densities of Production and Consumption Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba
The mismatch between the inherently low power densities of renewable energy flows and the relatively high power densities of modern final energy uses means that a solar-based system would require profound spatial restructuring, with major environmental and social consequences. Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba, Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).
Increase system resilience RESILIENT people, corporations and societies . . . have the capability to withstand shock without catastrophic failure
• Loosen coupling • Increase redundancy • Increase diversity • Decentralize • Implement safe-fail experimentation • Maximize flexibility
Connectivity and Resilience