Getting Action: Two Energy Futures

A Fossil-Free Future Can Be Just Around the Corner

Guest post by Ruthi Brandt of UK Tar Sands Network. This article has been reposted to coincide with International Reclaim Power! Day of Action for People and Community Energy Alternatives. This piece was originally posted in New Left Project.

Have you ever felt frustrated when debating climate change/peak oil/pollution/human rights abuses or any of the other evils associated with fossil fuels? You were maybe told that these are all bad things of course, but the alternative to using fossil fuels is going back to “living in caves”. You probably knew that wasn’t true, but couldn’t quite make a convincing argument.

Which future do you choose?

Which future do you choose?

You’ve seen various reports and books that say that it is possible to power a modern society without the use of fossil fuels, or even nuclear, but they are just so long it is hard to pick out the relevant bit for these afore mentioned debates. And besides, there are so many sources of alternative energy, it can all get quite confusing! Which do we rely on – wind, solar, geothermal, tidal? (hint: all of them, and more). And what about biomass? Is there any way it can be sustainable, or is it – like it is today – another way of destroying our ecosystems and putting profits before people? (sneak peek: unfortunately, if we’re relying only on current technology they can’t be completely avoided. But if we do it very very carefully, in a highly regulated manner, using a little bit of biomass can be done in a sustainable way).

Well now there is a brand new resource to help with all of this. UK Tar Sands Network has launched the Two Energy Futures interactive website. It is a visual tool to help people make sense of all this data, demonstrating that even with today’s technology a fossil-fuel free future is completely doable. The barriers are all political, not technological.

The site compares two possible models of energy production and consumption for the year 2035. The first, ‘Fossil-Fuelled Future‘, is the future the International Energy Agency forecasts we are currently heading for, if governments and fossil fuel companies follow through on their promises on energy and climate change. So this is not even the worst-case scenario – it’s the best that politicians and businesses are currently offering us. Needless to say, this scenario leads us to runaway climate change. The second, ‘Cleaner Fairer Future‘, draws on extensive research including the latest Zero Carbon Britain report by the Centre for Alternative Technology. It shows that currently available renewable energy technologies can meet the energy needs of our growing global population in an equal and environmentally sensitive way.

Uniquely, the website also takes a look at energy consumption. We obviously can’t continue to use energy in the same way we do at the moment. There will need to be fewer cars on the roads, a greater proportion of energy will go to homes, businesses and farms, and throwaway consumerism will need to be curbed. But if this is all done in a fair way, the overall quality of life the world over will be higher, not lower.

Personally, my starting point on the question of where our energy comes from is that we simply cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels. That – as far as I am concerned – is the central fact. Any required changes to our lifestyles won’t be as bad as what will happen if we continue on the path we are currently on, the one leading us straight into runaway climate change and to an increasingly unjust world.  We simply have to make our lives work without them. This website clearly demonstrates that we can do that, and we don’t even have to move into any caves (though of course you’re welcome to, if that’s your thing. Who am I to judge?).

Join global resistance to fossil fuel extraction.

Join global resistance to fossil fuel extraction.

And how do we get to this cleaner, fairer future? The good news is that many people all over the world are already working to make that future a reality. To highlight this encouraging fact, and inspire even more people to join, there is one more feature in this website which I’d like to mention – the Action Wall. This is where people will share their stories and ideas about how to transition to this future.

I have to admit I am really looking forward to seeing many little pins covering the global map, each telling a story of a local project, a national campaign or an individual action, proving that the future is on its way. Won’t you add yours?

Watch the Democracy Center’s new short documentary: ‘Seeds of Resilience’ lifts up the lessons from the people of Lancaya, Norte Potosí, on how local ingenuity and alternative decision-making structures is building in community resilience to intensifying climate change. Watch this space for more materials on grassroots resilience to climate change.

Seeds of Resilience

This article was posted in Climate, Getting Action, News, Reclaim Power!, Resilience, Seeds of Resilience. Bookmark this article.

4 Responses to Getting Action: Two Energy Futures

  1. Get Smart says:

    Energy is what makes the world go around. Without the continuous supply of energy that most of us take for granted, things would quickly grind to a halt. We are dependent on energy for our very survival. Heating our homes, transportation, communication, health – even our daily food supply – all depends on energy. But while energy delivers much that is good, it is also a primary factor – arguably the primary factor – in the destruction of the world’s life support systems. From smog, to acid rain, to climate change, to nuclear radiation, the effects of our current energy habits are fundamentally destructive, threatening our and all future generations.

  2. My cynical prediction is that concerns over climate change are unlikely to hold sway over energy scarcity. Heck, climate change has had little influence over our current energy mix even when energy is cheap and abundant. In some sense, this track record only highlights the difficulty we have in finding suitable alternatives to fossil fuels. Maybe declining fossil fuels will provide the impetus that climate change has not succeeded in delivering: for us to finally embark in earnest in a deliberate departure from our old friends.

  3. Ester Yang says:

    but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries . Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.

  4. That’s why we (the UK Tar Sands Network ) have developed our new infographic and website Two Energy Futures . It boils down all the relevant facts and figures into a visual form, so the viewer can see at a glance that it’s perfectly possible for everyone on the planet to have a good quality of life powered entirely by renewable energy, thus avoiding runaway climate change. By way of contrast, it also shows the (quite frankly terrifying) fossil-fuelled future that the International Energy Agency believes that we’re heading for if governments and industry carry on down their current energy development paths. In this scenario, runaway climate change is unavoidable.