Looking ahead to 2030 – the most important years in history?


Peter Madden,
Chief Executive,
Forum for the
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — October 21, 2008 – Imagine a scenario where kettles and washing machines and other appliances are automatically switched off by a carbon monitor when households exceed their energy quotas, and governments have banned personal car ownership and forced citizens to replace convector ovens with microwaves.

Impossible? Maybe not, according to the not-for-profit sustainable development group, Forum for the Future. In a new report entitled “Climate Futures,” these scenarios form part of one of five “futures” for the world in 2030.

Named the “environmental war economy” it is based on a breakdown in talks on a post-Kyoto treaty and the subsequent achievement of a global pact in 2017, and a stripping of civil liberties as governments enforce tough action to make up for lost time and reshape their economies to focus all resources on climate change. A license is needed to have children in some countries, and refugees from Bangladesh and the Pacific make up 18 percent of New Zealand’s population, while others are relocated to permanent settlements on the Antarctic Peninsula, projected to have a population of 3.5 million by 2040. The oil price has broken $400 per barrel, making shipping and aviation prohibitively expensive and leading to a collapse in international trade.

Climate Futures, developed in collaboration with researchers from HP, analyses the social, political, economic and psychological consequences of climate change and describes how different global responses to the problem now can lead to five very different worlds by 2030. Based on a review of current science and consultations with more than 60 climate change experts from academia, politics, business, NGOs and the media, it is intended to be a practical toolkit that organizations can use for strategic planning and product innovation.

In addition to the environmental war economy, the other futures are as follows.

“Efficiency first” envisages rapid innovation in energy efficiency and novel technologies creating a low carbon economy with little need for changes in lifestyle or business practice. Artificially grown flesh feeds hundreds of millions, supercomputers advise governments, massive desalination plants in the Middle East and North Africa soak up vast quantities of solar energy and irrigate the desert, and eco-concrete walls protect the USA’s eastern seaboard generating power from the waves and tides.

Under “service transformation”, carbon is one of the most expensive commodities, businesses have shifted to selling services instead of products, and good citizens share with their neighbors. No-one owns a car – it is far too expensive – and athletes have just staged the world’s first virtual Olympics, competing in cyberspace. NATO is ready to go to war if necessary to enforce the 2020 Climate Change Agreement, and water shortages have already forced the abandonment of Central Australia and Oklahoma. Booming mega-cities are only just managing to cope, and fuel poverty is a huge problem.

In “redefining progress” the global depression of 2009-18 forced governments to regulate the economy tightly and encouraged citizens to put greater priority on quality of life than making money. Countries compete to score highest in the World Bank’s Wellbeing Index and the EU Working Time directive sets a limit of 27.5 hours a week. The trend is towards economic resilience and simpler, more sustainable lives, but “free-riders” plunder resources, several big cities have set up as “havens of real capitalism,” and some governments are aggressively pro-growth.
Finally under “protectionist world”, the 2012 Climate Agreement collapsed amid accusations of cheating and undeclared power stations, and globalization fractured into protectionist blocs as countries launched go-it-alone strategies and fought violent wars over scarce resources. Soldiers fighting for nations and businesses are waging war over oil, gas and gold in the thawing north-west passage. Violent factions exploit the chaos to launch devastating biochemical attacks, while cyber-terrorists operating from safe havens in failed states have already bankrupted two multinationals. Action to mitigate climate change is all but abandoned.

Peter Madden, Chief Executive of the Forum, says that what we do now could determine the fate of billions of people and so these could be the most important years in history.

“Looking ahead to 2030 will our choices have created a slower-paced world where quality of life is valued above growth, a technocratic future where vast solar desalination plants irrigate the Sahara, or a protectionist nightmare where corporate armies wage war over Arctic oil and gas?”