GFB Update 2:11, November 2012  

A monthly newsletter on the vast and underappreciated world of current affairs books

 

Prepared by Michael Marien

In This Issue: RESOURCES/SUSTAINABILITY
IEA, World Energy to 2035
Michael T. Klare, The Race for the Last World Resources
U.N. High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability

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Dear Subscriber, 
 
Please accept our apologies for falling behind on sending out the GFB Update. This issue (2:11) highlights three Book of the Month selections on RESOURCES/SUSTAINABILITY: the IEA's authoritative World Energy Outlook 2012, Michael T. Klare's excellent overview of growing resource scarcity, The Race for What' s Left, and the Report of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing. The last two BOM selections were for May 2012 and June 2012, but were never sent out as part of the newsletter. 

The December issue of GFB update will be sent out soon, focusing on 21st CENTURY SKILLS/UNCERTAINTIES. It showcases Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century by Maureen O'Hara and Graham Leicester, and resumes the Feature of the Month, with a special biblio-essay on "12 Mega-Uncertainties of Coming Decades," which integrates many BOM selections and GFB Update features of the past two years.

Beginning in 2013, the GFB Update will be sent out bi-monthly, with two BOM selections and a Feature of the Month.

Michael Marien, Director, GFB
November 2012 Book of the Month
IEA, World Energy to 2035
 
weo_2012_coverfinal World Energy Outlook  2012. 
International Energy Agency (Paris).  Paris: IEA (dist. by OECD), Nov 2012, 668p, 150 euros (PDF E120) from www.iea.org or OECD. (www.worldenergyoutlook.org)

 

The quantity and quality of energy supply is central to the future.  This annual report is, by far, the most extensive and authoritative survey of energy trends, which are projected to 2020 and 2035.  Much press attention, at least in the US, has been given to the startling forecast that the US will become the world's largest oil producer by 2020 (see below).  But there is much, much more to this important report that deserves attention.

 

Notably, a central theme of the IEA report involves four scenarios: Current Policies (business as usual baseline), New Policies (the central scenario, assuming recently-announced commitments cautiously adopted), 450 Scenario (policies providing a 50% chance of limiting global increase in temperature to 2C, and CO2 at 450ppm), and Efficient World Scenario (all economically viable energy investments are made, which lowers growing demand for fossil fuel and boosts economic output.)

 

Many people worldwide applaud the transition to renewable sources of energy.  So does the IEA, but, as indicated here, there is still a long way to go before renewables make a major impact.  Conversely, many people also believe that we have reached or will soon reach the point of "peak oil," which will accelerate use of renewables.  This wishful thinking is nowhere to be found in the hard-nosed IEA report, which views global oil demand rising through 2035, with any shortfalls made up by "unconventional oil" and rapid development of Iraq's extensive oil resources.  Not good news for climate change, of course, but these are the sober realities ahead.  "Wild cards" may appear (e.g., a US carbon tax, new technologies not on the horizon), but IEA does not consider them.

 

The quotations below are merely a small sampling of the many significant points that are made in this dense report.

 

Click here for the full section.

May 2012 Book of the Month 
Michael T. Klare, Chasing the World's Last Resources


the-race-cover
The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources.  Michael T. Klare (director, Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies, Hampshire College).  NY: Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt and Company), March 2012, 306p, $27 (e-book $12.99)

 

 
Updated views by the author of Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (2001), and nine other books on energy and security matters, stressing that "The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion-a crisis that goes beyond "peak oil" to encompass shortages of coal and uranium, copper and lithium, water and arable land."  The global pursuit of vital natural resources has long shaped human history, providing the impetus for campaigns of exploration and conquest across the millennia.  For several decades in the 20C, resource concerns were overshadowed by ideological strife as the main cause of international conflict.  "But now the importance of natural resources has reasserted itself, and as time goes on the race for what's left will play an increasingly dominant role in world affairs."(p209)

 

"The end of 'easy' everything" also threatens survival of local communities, animal species, giant corporations, and entire nations.  We can avoid calamity on a global scale only by abandoning the race altogether, focusing instead on developing renewable resources and maximizing efficiency.  "Eventually, perhaps, substitutes will be found for some of these materials...but these efforts will take a long time to mature."  Moreover, many of the new energy systems require the use of resources that are themselves scarce or difficult to obtain.

 Click here for the full section

June 2012 Book of the Month
U.N. High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability 
 
Resilient-People-Resilient-Planet
Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing. Report of the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. NY: United Nations, March 2012, 112p, $20. (Full report or                                    22p Overview at www.un.org/gsp)

This is the latest UN vision of what must be done for a sustainable planet-essentially an update of the 1987 Brundtland report -- featuring 56 proposals to empower people, to promote a sustainable economy, and to strengthen governance.

Prologue: The Panel's Vision
"Our planet and our world are experiencing the best of times and the worst of times": unprecedented prosperity and unprecedented stress, with growing inequality and rising waves of protest in many countries. Due to an array of overlapping challenges, "it is more urgent than ever that we take action to embrace the principles of the sustainable development agenda." It is time for "genuine global action" that integrates the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development. "That sustainable development is right is self-evident. Our challenge is to demonstrate that it is also rational-and that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action."

The challenges are great, but so are the new possibilities when we look at old problems with fresh eyes: new technologies, markets, growth, and jobs from "game-changing products and services," and new approaches to public and private finance that can lift people out of poverty. But "democratic governance and full respect for human rights are key prerequisites for empowering people."

Thus, "the long-term vision of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability is to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and make growth inclusive, and production and consumption more sustainable, while combating climate change and respecting a range of other planetary boundaries." This reaffirms Our Common Future, the 1987 report by the World Commission on Environment and Development, a.k.a the Brundtland report. [Note: Gro Harlem Brundtland is one of the 22 members of the Panel, chaired by Finland President Tarja Halonen and South Africa President Jacob Zuma; Janos Pasztor served as Executive Secretary of the Panel.]

But what is to be done to make a real difference? We must grasp the dimensions of the challenge: unsustainable lifestyles, production and consumption patterns, and population growing from 7 billion to almost 9 billion people by 2040. "By 2030, the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy, and 30% more water-all at a time when environmental boundaries are throwing up new limits to supply." The current global development model is unsustainable. Sustainable development (SD), introduced by the Brundtland report 25 years ago, remains a generally agreed concept, rather than a practical reality. This is so because it has "undoubtedly suffered from a failure of political will," and it "has not yet been incorporated into the mainstream national and international economic policy debate."

For too long, economists, social activists, and environmental scientists have talked past each other, almost speaking different languages. "The time has come to unify the disciplines, to develop a common language for sustainable development," and to bring the sustainability paradigm into mainstream economics and the political process.

"The Panel presents 56 recommendations to advance its vision for a sustainable planet, a just society, and a growing economy." 

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Global Foresight Books is an experimental nonprofit website, the 21st century successor to Future Survey, a monthly publication that Michael Marien founded and edited for the World Future Society. Please visit GFB often, use it freely as a resource, tell your friends (click Forward, below), and think wisely about current affairs.
 
Global Foresight Books is supported by grants from the Foundation For the Future and The Bermingham Fund.