Guardian: “We have a worrying collective blindness to huge risks, both in the economy and the environment, writes Jeremy Leggett. As the long-awaited IPCC scientific assessment of climate change is unveiled, in its full horror, it is worth remembering that neuroscientists and psychologists tell us we have a very worrying collective tendency for blindness to the kind of risks that can crash economies and imperil civilisations.” Read more
Guardian: “The world’s leading climate scientists have set out in detail for the first time how much more carbon dioxide humans can pour into the atmosphere without triggering dangerous levels of climate change – and concluded that more than half of that global allowance has been used up.” Read more
Jeremy Leggett on the Guardian: “If we do nothing in the face of these kinds of warnings about climate change, at some point, not far off in this century, nobody much is going to be doing any worthwhile business at all. Fossil-fuel energy companies are essentially on collective course to kill much of their ultimate customer base, and we cannot allow them to do it.” Read more
Guardian: “Global warming is likely to surpass the previously recognised danger threshold of a 2C average increase in temperature, according to the world-leading climate scientists meeting in Sweden this week. ….By 2100, the average projection for how much warming will occur is expected to be slightly above the 2C threshold, considered to be the temperature above which it is considered that climate change will damage the global environment.” Read more
REW.com: “Solar power capacity installed around the world this year will beat wind for the first time driven by stronger policy support in key markets, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.” Read more
Jeremy Leggett in REnew Economy: “Humans are capable of mass collective blindness to risk. In modern times, the financial crisis of 2008 shows us that clearly. A whole industry pushed a delusional narrative.” Read more
Jeremy Leggett describes in Green Futures how systemic risks to energy and finance also come with opportunities.
The scene: Slough, UK, September 2010.
An opening ceremony with a difference. Solar roof tiles, glistening on the roofs of eight homes as though rained on under a grey autumn sky, can provide all the electricity the homes use, with plenty left over to power the battery car that the families living in the community share. Four technologies are each capable of heating the whole of the airtight, triple-glazed, development: air-sourced heat pumps, ground sourced heat pumps, a biomass boiler, and solar thermal panels.
SSE, the British utility, and investor in Solarcentury, has built this development for some of its workforce, as a showcase for what could be done. Half Britain’s carbon emissions come from buildings. Half those come from residential buildings. These homes use no coal, no gas, no oil, no nuclear. They go beyond Zero Carbon.
Ian Marchant, SSE CEO, gives a speech.
This is a stunning glimpse into the future, he says. These homes took just 8 months from beginning building to occupancy.
Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, follows him.
Low-carbon energy is going to be a massive industry, he says. Congratulations to all.
Back to London, I have a meeting at GE with Mark Elborne, their UK CEO. We have another demonstration project to talk about: solar schools, a flagship within GE’s sustainable cities programme. We are destined to hit the front page of GE’s website: a £50 million minnow partnered with a £100 billion giant.
I recount my morning with SSE to Elborne with a pride I can’t disguise.
Just wait until we marry this kind of technology up in a few years time with the storage technologies we are working on, he says. Then we’ll see some changes in energy markets.
This is a good day at work.
Back home in Holland Park, I am dragged back to earth. A meeting of my flat-dweller neighbours convenes. We have all been thrown in purgatory in past months as the owner of the mansion next door builds an underground cinema in his back garden. Platoons of Polish builders troop in and out of the mansion. Our flats shake all day in the incessant jackhammer hell they create. The owner of the mansion has moved out for the duration. We his neighbours can’t.
He is an investment banker. He is spending his bonus, or part of it.
The passage you just read is an extract from my book, The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance, in which I set out my best-guess scenario for how systemic risks in our global energy and finance systems will play out in the years ahead, and analyse the implications. Amid the mega-risks there are also opportunities for society. As the story unfolds, a potential good-news future scenario emerges, which I think of as a ‘renaissance’.
Since the dot.com crash, I have developed an ex-academic’s passion for studying the patterns of play in energy markets, and in the financial markets where they pertain to energy. I have logged and analysed these patterns in a 2005 book, Half Gone and, since 2006, on my website [www.jeremyleggett.net]. Today I observe four global systemic risks directly connected to energy that threaten capital markets and hence the global economy. They involve oil depletion, carbon emissions, carbon assets, and shale gas. A market shock involving any one of these would be capable of triggering a tsunami of economic and social problems, and there is no law of economics that says only one can hit at one time.
There are other systemic risks in the energy sector, of course. Persistence with and proliferation of nuclear power risks spawning nuclear devices with which terrorists could take out cities, or weapons that could make nuclear war between nations more likely. The growing use of water in most forms of energy production could accelerate an already grave global water crisis. And so on. But in my book I concentrate on the four systemic risks that I have most direct vocational experience of.
I also write about a fifth risk. Ongoing systemic risk in the financial sector may at first glance seem to have nothing to do with energy. But I share a common view, fashioned with the benefit of hindsight as are the views of so many interested in the 2007 credit crunch and the 2008 financial crash, that they were indirectly connected to energy. Peak panic about the toxicity of mortgage-backed securities followed shortly after the highest ever oil price in history: $147 per barrel in July 2008. Could the high price of gasoline have had anything to do with all those owners of shiny new homes in American suburbs defaulting on their sub-prime mortgages? How could it not.
How best to describe the risks, and analyse the dangers? I have chosen to do this in the course of a historical account, rooted in my own experiences. I hope a chronological narrative approach will interest the reader more than a conventional format, while giving me the opportunity to recount how my own thinking has evolved over the years in the stoking of the serial crisis that faces society today.
Kieran Cooke for Climate News Network: “A new book by Jeremy Leggett, The Energy of Nations: Risk blindness and the road to renaissance, predicts a grim future if our oil-dependent society refuses to change.” Read more
Guardian: “Inspectors hunting for oil pipelines and oil drums damaged in Colorado’s epic floods are being “completely overwhelmed” by the sheer scale of destruction, a member of Congress has warned.” Read more
Guardian: “The Arctic is on course for an ice-free summer within the next few decades, as scientists on Friday declared that sea ice in the region had fallen to one of the lowest annual minimums on record.” Read more
Guardian: “Big companies are paying contrarians to undermine the work of climate scientists, according to a top UN official speaking before the release of a landmark review of climate science this weekby international researchers next Friday.” Read more
Guardian: “President Obama took his first real step to fulfilling his sweeping climate action plan on Friday, proposing the first rules to limit carbon pollutionfrom future coal-fired power plants. The new rules on natural gas and coal plants, announced by the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, will for the first time limit the single largest source of carbon pollution: greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.” Read more
Guardian: “Last spring the City of London was rife with rumours about a trader at the vast JP Morgan investment bank who was making such huge bets on the highly complex – and deeply risky – derivatives markets that he was known as “the London Whale” or “Voldemort”. After racking up losses of $6bn (£3.7bn) from his reckless trading, the London Whale blew another hole in the bank on Thursday – landing the Wall Street firm with one of the largest fines ever levied against a single bank.” Read more
Guardian: “Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has told workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that “the future of Japan” depends on their ongoing struggle to contain leaks of highly radioactive water at the site.” Read more
Guardian: “Armed Russian military have stormed a Greenpeace ship protesting against oil exploitation in remote Arctic waters. According to the last communications from the Arctic Sunrise before all contact was cut at around 4.30pm BST, the Russians dropped guards on to the deck of the vessel by rope from a helicopter, rounded up the Greenpeace crew and broke into the wheel house and communications rooms.” Read more
Guardian: “Conservative groups at the forefront of global warming skepticism are doubling down on trying to discredit the next big report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In recent weeks, they’ve been cranking out a stream of op-eds, blogs and reports to sow doubt in the public’s mind before the report is published, with no end in sight.” Read more
FT: “Mexico has hedged its oil production for the coming year at the highest price on record, in a striking indication of how stubbornly high oil prices continue to allow producing governments to finance growing budgets.” Read more
InsideClimateNews: “Almost 75 percent of the nation’s publicly traded companies are ignoring a three-year-old Securities and Exchange Commission requirement that they inform investors of the risks that climate change may pose to their bottom lines, according to a citizen researcher who has compiled what may be the country’s biggest searchable database of climate risk disclosure.” Read more
FT: “Regulations that would in effect ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants without costly carbon capture equipment are expected to be set out this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, the US regulator. The proposed rules, setting limits to emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to the threat of global warming, have already revived talk about the Obama administration’s “war on coal”.” Read more