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Green Tomorrows: the Scenarios

Jamais Cascio, Open the Future
This matrix served as the core of the presentation I gave at Opportunity Green this past weekend and, in a somewhat different form, at the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference the week before.

(I’m also looking at it as the core for a book.)

Opportunity Green scenarios

The four boxes represent a variety of “response” scenarios, each embracing elements of the prevention, mitigation, and remediation approaches to solving the climate crisis. Certain approaches may receive greater emphasis in a given scenario, but all three types of responses can be seen in each world. And while individual readers may find some scenarios more appealing than others, none of these stand out for me as indisputably “bad” response models.

The Drivers

The two critical uncertainties used as scenario axes aren’t meant to cover every possible force driving change; rather, they’re what I’ve come to see as issues that are fundamental to how the next few decades play out. It should be noted that the drivers are not particularly “green” in emphasis: this matrix structure can be used to think about different scenarios regarding (e.g.) nanotechnology, military developments, even social networks.

The first driver is Who Makes the Rules?, with end-points of Centralized and Distributed. This driver looks at the locus of authority regarding the subject (in this case, climate responses) — are outcomes dependent upon choices made by top-down, centralized leadership, or made by uncoordinated, distributed decision-making? Centralized doesn’t necessarily mean government; a world where a small number of wealthy individuals or corporations play key roles in shaping results would be just as “centralized” as one of state dominance. Similarly, distributed doesn’t necessarily mean collaborative; a world of competing actors with diverse agendas and little ability to exert decisive power is as distributed as one of bottom-up civil society movements.

Although my bias tends towards distributed/collaborative, top-down models are often better-able to respond quickly to rapid developments, and can also offer a more predictable environment for business and organizational planning.

The second driver is How Do We Use Technology?, with end-points of Precautionary and Proactionary. …

The Scenarios
The combination of these two drivers give us four distinct worlds.

“Power Green” — Centralized and Proactionary: …

“Functional Green” — Centralized and Precautionary …

“We Green” — Distributed and Precautionary …

“Hyper Green” — Distributed and Proactionary …
(20 November 2007)
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The Technodevelopmental Quartet

Dale Carrico, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
I am fascinated by a few broad concurrent “trends” (to use that awfully abused and debased word of the corporate-militarist Futurological Congress) that seem to me likely to articulate (but never to determine) especially forcefully (but always unpredictably) the politics of technoscientific change, and emerging longevity and modification medicine (so-called) is one of these.

It is, in fact, one of four trends that have come especially to preoccupy my attention, and lately I have come to think of these four trends as The Quartet: four broad technodevelopmental trends delineating key landmarks of most versions of the terrain on which I expect technodevelopmental social struggle to play out in what remains of my own lifetime.

The first of these trends is what I call Resource Descent, which encompasses “Peak Oil” discourse, as well as the diminishing returns of input-infrastructure intensive alternatives to petrochemical energy, as well as input-intensive industrial agriculture, soil depletion (connected to industrial agriculture), fresh water depletion (aquifer depletion and irrigation diversion associated with overurbanization and industrial agriculture, but also problems of pollution and salinization associated with these), and also global warming which is, in my view, best conceived as a problem of atmospheric pollution yielding the depletion of the resource of a life-sustaining atmosphere.

The second of these trends is what I call p2p [peer-to-peer] Democratization, which encompasses the mediated transformation from industrial/broadcast production models to participatory/distributed models of production.

…The third of these trends is what I call Longevity Ascent, which encompasses struggles to achieve universal single-payer basic healthcare in the United States but also basic healthcare, nutrition, resource provision in the overexploited regions of the world, as well as the as-yet scarcely defined “pro-choice” politics of prosthetic self-determination, or the informed, nonduressed consensualization and universalization of recourse to emerging non-normalizing genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive modification medicine.

The fourth of these trends is Arms Proliferation, which encompasses obscene and short-sighted state-sponsored trafficking in arms but also illicit global arms trading, the breakdown of multilateral arms treaties, the proliferation of nuclear states, the proliferation of conventional weapons and mines, weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological), what Lawrence Lessig calls insanely destructive devices-that is to say cheaper, more destructive, more accessible, easier to hide and deploy emerging forms of WMDs-and the militarization of space.

It seems to me that the first and second trends combine to facilitate the emergence of an extraordinarily promising (and threatening) planetary political consciousness, one providing a shared set of urgent problems demanding shared efforts and the other providing the material means to collaborate in their solution while at once undermining the politics of incumbent interests that stand as the greatest present hurdle to such solutions.

Dale Carrico Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET and a lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Carrico blogs at Amor Mundi.
(24 November 2007)

Australia, The Place To Be: Part 3a

David Clarke, The Oil Drum:ANZ
In Part 1 & Part 2 I discussed the possibility that a downturn may occur in the 5+ year timeframe and a serious dislocation to our way of life may occur in the 13+ year timeframe. I am certainly not suggesting that it is certain, or even probable, but as someone who deals in risk management every day this is a risk that I feel needs serious management.

My goal in Part 3 was to examine what, on a personal level, can be done to prepare for these possible risks and guarantee a future for my son. Unfortunately, the answer ran to almost 10,000 words! I am sure that you have better things to do than read 10,000 words, so I have divided it into 3 a and 3b and I have ruthlessly cut the word count.

Part 3a will concentrate mainly on a worst case. Part 3b will try to draw it all together, then look at a best case.

The three most worrying risks that I identified in Part 2 were interactions between Peak Oil and:
– Climate Change
– Massive Economic Downturn
– Pandemic

The inclusion of pandemic was a surprise as it does not get much press in the peak oil world, but the number computed was high enough to justify a rating in the top 3. On reflection, this should not come as a surprise.
(23 November 2007)