Wed 21 June 2017
17:15 – 19:00 BST
In this talk Mike Stephenson will describe some past energy transitions, show how important the developing world is to our energy and climate change ambitions, and briefly foray into the strange world of ‘unburnable carbon’.
Energy systems emerge, become dominant, and then fade. Transitioning from the current ‘oil economy’ to a lower carbon intensity renewables economy is the one of the biggest challenges for the modern world, alongside challenges such as communicable diseases and urbanisation. What gives our modern transition such extra imperative is the fact that to offset the intrinsic momentum of climate change, modern society needs to act earlier than many of the most serious environmental changes will become obvious. Apart from being a difficult sell to a partly sceptical public, this also needs careful planning and a good understanding of past transitions.
The latest forecasts on the anatomy of the present transition indicate that the role of the developing world is crucial and to some extent an unknown quantity. Will the developing world undergo a ‘fossil revolution’ like the developed world’s industrial revolution, or will it leap-frog fossil fuels to renewables, like it did landline telephones? Or will it develop a hybrid with renewables coupled with so-called load-following gas power?
Mike Stephenson is Director of Science and Technology at the British Geological Survey. He has done research in the Middle East and Asia, including highlights in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Mike also runs the Science Programme at BGS, the UK's national geoscience and data centre, in charge of 520 scientists and technologists. He has professorships at Nottingham and Leicester universities. He has published two books and over 80 peer-reviewed papers.