Doing this often turns out to be a mug’s game, but it is important to try; how else are we to plan a low-carbon future? Over the last few years, we have featured a number of posts from Netherlands blogger, Roy Rovers – see this for example. In a pre-Christmas post, Rovers shared his thoughts about what we’ll be able to do in the next 20+ years to deal with climate and wider environmental issues. This covers a lot of ground. What he writes is part-speculation, and it’s provocative, but it is thinking in the round and researched-informed.

His post is here and this is how it begins:

“Some developments are not that difficult to estimate. The population will increase to 10 billion in 2050, say 9 billion in 2040.

Climate change and its effects are also known: In 20 years, the sea level will still rise, even if we would stop CO2 emissions immediately. But that will not happen, so CO2 emissions will continue to increase, certainly until 2040, and so will the derived effects. The climate is warming further, we will exceed those 2 degrees, the only question is how far we will overshoot that. Although 3 degrees seems the least, in the long run.

Energy and climate are only 1 threatening development, about which more shortly, our use of materials also continues to increase. That will quadruple (until 2060), not counting recycling and reuse and sharing. Biodiversity is declining, just like soil quality, and before we have changed that , will take at least another 20 years, with all the damage included.

The global average prosperity will also increase in the first years, so that more people will be lifted out of poverty. The trends have been excellently analyzed in the book Factfullness. The only question is how long will this increase continue? (Corona by the way has reversed the trend, the question is how that will recover “after corona”.)

But then, how will that work out, the need for more and more energy and materials, more people striving for more prosperity, and the systems that are going to crack, as well as the tensions between countries in a struggle to maintain existing prosperity? And will science and innovative business succeed in keeping things afloat with smart solutions? Will resistance, and conservatism, take on such great proportions that innovation is delayed or change stopped?

The question is, what then? If we change too slowly ourselves, the changes will come to us uncontrolled. In other words, the question is: What are we going to change ourselves, willingly, and / or what is unintentionally coming our way? …”

And it ends:

“I’ll be honest, it is very difficult to think about that future as I tried above: There are always a few lines of thought competing: firstly, the knowledge and resulting wishful thinking, on how it should be organised to prevent major problems, and what part of that could be realized (like I did in my book People vs Resources). Secondly, the observation that nothing or little is happening, or is going way too slowly, and that we are therefore going to crash into walls. Which makes me try to adapt to reality and think along: how could we limit the damage, which technologies might be acceptable and feasible (but not comply with under 1). And thirdly, the fear that nothing will actually happen at all, and that we will happily continue to try to innovate our way out, until it collapses. And what might be the situation then?

I am doubting between those three scenarions, and possible expectations for 2040 therefore might be a mix along those three lines of thought. At the same time having the observation, as I am researching for a new book, that maybe it simply cannot be resolved evolutionarily, and we are doomed to live like other species. Boom or bust. We are like grasshoppers.

And let’s be honest, the future is not predictable, certainly not now, it is not 1 problem that we have to solve, its the entire system, our way of life does not fit in a maintainable balance of the system. But do we embrace or ignore another way of life?”

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