The last summer we all experienced the heat waves and their consequences. Beyond these heat waves, the long-term viability of our industry arises. The Club of Rome commissioned a group at the MIT to study “Are current policies leading to a sustainable future or to collapse”.
When the results appeared in 1972, the conclusion is that with finite natural resources, growth would overshoot and collapse. It was discredited by many economists.
But so far the standard run (BAU) model: World 3, compares well with reality for all variables
The real data are slightly better than the projections, thanks to the energy efficiency regulation
- For example Ecodesign requirements presented per product: lighting, heater, fridge, AC, television, transformers and converters, computer…
and the evolution of energy mix by country.
- The United Kingdom, which accounted for 37% of coal for its electricity supply in 2013, is almost out today.
Source: Turner, G. (2014) ‘Is Global Collapse Imminent? , MSSI Research Paper No. 4, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, the University of Melbourne.
However, this will not be enough to avoid economic collapse around 2035/2045
A harbinger is already there: “the energy wall”
- Oil supply crunch
The peak of conventional oil production (the one that is “easy and inexpensive to extract”) was passed in 2008. Current production growth relies only on unconventional oil (US rock and Canada tar sands oil).
The result will be a supply gap of 13 millions of oil barrels per day in 2025 (on 95).
Oil is still the blood of our economy; the famines in North Korea during the nineties are the result of the sudden loss of access to abundant fossil fuel from Soviet Union. Source: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
- Decreasing EROI = Return in energy of the invested energy
Unconventional oil takes 5 times more energy to extract oil than conventional. Unconventional oil won’t be able to close the supply gap.
The decline in residual resources’ quality rapidly increases the energy required to access them. Let’s take a metric ton of copper, due to continuous decline in ore grades; takes 2 times more energy to extract, than 20 years ago.
In summary: It takes 5 times more energy to obtain a barrel of unconventional oil that can extract 2 times less copper than 20 years ago.
At the same time, energy demand is growing exponentially as a result of the digital economy (1 mail = 19 g CO2 in average), electric vehicles and global warming (air conditioning).
According to the IEA (World energy outlook 2018) the physical limits of the energy generation will be reached in 2025 = there will be no energy for everyone. All industries will compete for energy and ours will not be prioritized unlike agriculture, goods manufacturing or the army.
Are we doomed?
Not yet! There is still one equilibrium path for our industry and civilization.
3 on 4 scenarios drive to collapsing! 1 to equilibrium
The world 3 model could have four possible types of outcomes with 3 parameters:
- Growth: of the economy & population
- Biocapacity: The capacity of a country, a region, or the world, to produce useful biological materials such as natural resources (sunlight, atmosphere, water, land (includes all minerals) along with all vegetation, crops and animal life) for its human population and to absorb and filter waste materials such as CO2 from the atmosphere.
1st scenario infinite world with infinite resources allowing continuous growth = irrationnal
2nd scenario ideal world = very seductive scenario, alas we have overshoot the bio capacity for a long time now (since 1980) and the biocapacity won’t be stable due to pollution and human activity, it’s unrealistic.
3rd scenario hopefully = in the short-term, the biocapacity is declining due to overshoot, then in midterm, thanks to adaptation i.e. regulation + innovation, after a small decrease, we can stick to the biocapacity and began to restore it.
We can preserve our lifestyle at a good level (a sustainable one) i.e. we must not take more out of the planet than the planet can renew.
4th scenario Disaster = Longer overshoot of the biocapacity (than scenario 3) without a large scale adaptation, means collapse of our industry & civilization.
We can handle a large scale adaptation thanks to regulationand innovation, set in synergic.
At a smaller scale, we already made it in history and a close past.
Japan averted a deforestation collapse
During the Edo period (17th and 18th centuries) in Japan, increased demand for timber resources for construction, ship building, and fuel had led to widespread deforestation, which results in floods, soil erosion and forest fires.
In response, beginning around 1666, the Tokugawa government developed an advanced forest management policy to reduce logging and increase tree planting, the government had to authorize the use of trees.
They stopped and reverse the deforestation of the preceding centuries through:
- Detailed scientific knowledge about silviculture and plantation forestry
- Efficiency of land use
- Substituting conventional timber by other essence (sugi and hinoki trees/fast growth)
- Local woodsmen, agronomists, and government forest officials developed new techniques for producing and maintaining fast growing trees plantations:
sugi and hinoki seed, planting sugi cuttings, thinning and pruning the plantations
Managed forestry continued to develop and expand in conjunction with a “virtuous cycle” of mutually reinforcing silvicultural improvements, social institutions for forest land use, and timber marketing institutions.
The “positive tip” that began with extending village cooperation to managing forests lands had stimulated a series of mutually reinforcing changes that slowed down deforestation and eventually led to the reforestation of Japan.
Source: A New Paradigm for Restoring Ecological Security – Gerald G Marten – lecture presented January 12, 2005 at Kwansei Gakuin University’s Kobe-Sanda Campus.
- In a close past, we began to restore one of atmosphere’ main component
Ozone layer is healing!
Ozone depleting substances (ODS aka CFC- chlorofluocarbons) used in aerosol, refrigeration, air-conditionning and foam applications…, when released to the atmosphere, those chemicals damage the stratospheric ozone layer, Earth’s shield that protects humans and the environment from harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals.
Adopted on 15 September 1987, the Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever, that has been ratified by every country on Earth – all 197 UN Member States.
Substitution: CFC to F-gases (hydrochlorofluorocarbons, don’t make me spell it please ;).
In addition to not deplete the ozone layer, F-gases have much better energy efficiency than CFCs. However some of them have high GWPs ranging from 12 to 14,000.
The Parties to the Montreal Protocol reached agreement at their 28th Meeting of the Parties on 15 October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to phase-down HFCs.
Countries agreed to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances, and approved a timeline for their gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s. The first reductions by developed countries are expected in 2019 (new cooling & refrigeration’s systems are emerging; they are in the data base).
- Northern hemisphere should be completely repaired in 2030s
- Southern hemisphere should be completely repaired in 2060s
Source: About Montreal Protocol – UN environment
Efficiency is the key!
Our industry needs to focus on efficiency rather than performance that generates:
- Hidden costs
- Unnecessary production capacity
- a waste of limited business resources
- preventable environmental impacts.
It is a paradigm shift concomitant with the realization that the resources of our world are finite making the notion of performance obsolete, disconnected from physical reality.
It will drive to a carbon mitigation scale-up in our industry and strongly contribute to AV industry’ stabilization of jobs and activity.