Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Noah or Mad Max in a future dystopia?

Dr Tim Foxon        Photo: Sally Bavage
Sally Bavage writes:
A new partnership with Café Scientifique this year saw an appreciative audience of Café and LitFest regulars explore some key issues around surviving the delivery of our future energy needs at the same time as reducing carbon emissions.  Introduced by Dr Tim Foxon, Reader in Sustainability & Innovation in the Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, the session provoked some lively debate.

We all know the main scientific facts concerning the relentless rise in global carbon dioxide emissions, the projected temperature rise of between 2 to 5 degrees Centigrade by the turn of the century and our ever-increasing demand for energy. Mix this with some more information on the developing economies, the role positive feedback could play in an exponential further rise and the extreme weather becoming, well, even more extreme. More often.  Very few scientists of international standing deny the figures; interpretation is a more subjective and emotive issue.

Tim gave us a factual run-through of key considerations in our energy needs, then posed the question: Who will decide?  The Markets?  Central governments?  Or communities?  The Thousand Flowers strand of thinking (Let a thousand flowers bloom is a common misquotation of Chairman Mao Zedong's Let a hundred flowers blossom) but signifies that the answer may lie in a diversity of approaches.  We need to use our scientific, technological, political and social skills to change the habits of a lifetime before the life becomes shortened and unstable. There seem few scenarios with a soft landing.

Fire and flood?  Drought and pestilence.  Mass migration and resource wars. Fleeting images of Noah or Mad Max in a dystopian future are called to mind.  Politicians will not be pouring oil on troubled waters but burning the oil and stealing the water.  The price of carbon may turn out to be one that mankind can’t afford to pay.  A more positive future is possible, but humankind will probably need to overcome its collective addiction to consumption and economic growth to achieve this.

A sobering thought as the audience filed out to the bar.  

From the audience:

Very enjoyable and some food for thought.

Great to link Café Scientifique with LitFest, to increase involvement with both.

A very clear exposition of crucial issues looking forward to 2050 and beyond.

I wonder what Headingley LitFest will be like by then?

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