Insights · April 9th, 2008

There are three convergent items that all raise the question of the link between global warming and future fossil fuel use. Recent testimony to Congress from oil executives once again included assurances that there is sufficient oil to last for decades, and that no matter what, oil, coal and gas will still comprise the vast majority of energy supplies in use.

This has been a generally accepted view for two reasons, first the fact that oil reserve estimates have generally grown sufficiently that there is always a “40-year” supply on the books. However, the European branch of the OilDrum (which publishes a variety of credible challenges to this assumption) this week pointed to a most intriguing advertisement (PDF) placed in national publications by Shell Oil. This “advertisement” is one of a series of “conversations” about the future of energy. But intriguing is not really the right word, rather the appropriate description is “disturbing.” In it Jeremy Leggett, a UK expert on peak oil and climate, puts it this way:

Renewable and efficient energy technology will have to replace fossil fuels far faster than most people currently anticipate.

It is interesting to speculate why Shell is publishing this at this time, but one possibility is that they are preparing the field for the future. You can watch a video of Jeremy at YouTube.

Second, Dr. James Hanson, NASA climate specialist took note of the expectation that we’ll just look for more expensive and dirtier fossil fuels to keep the global engine running, an article of faith for many as noted. Hanson, speaking to the Guardian in the UK, argued that recent science is asking if the accepted global target for maximum CO2 in the atmosphere is in fact too high. He put it this way:

“If you leave us at 450ppm for long enough it will probably melt all the ice – that’s a sea rise of 75 metres. What we have found is that the target we have all been aiming for is a disaster – a guaranteed disaster,” Hansen told the Guardian.

Hanson is now beginning to advocate that we quickly phase out fossil fuels for transportation.

Finally, we turn to Al Gore again. He recently spoke to the 2008 TED conference, and the video of his short program was just posted by them. He takes on some of the standard challenges to global warming science – such as it being a simple natural cycle, or the result of sun cycles – but mostly he communicates a sense of urgency worth thinking about.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

Environment & Energy
Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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