The Great Transition: Beyond Carbon
Given the scale of supply constraints across the spectrum of traditional energy sources, we may find it very difficult to scale-up a viable supply of energy to replace cheap, conventional oil in time to avoid the collapse of critical infrastructures. The converging complexity of major stresses including energy depletion, climate change, food insecurity, economic instability and violent conflict – combined with the increasingly obvious inability of states to keep up with and respond to these crises meaningfully – could create a perfect storm culminating in “synchronous failure”, leading to collapse. And a short-sighted reversion to traditional military solutions would more likely accelerate, rather than avoid, this collapse.
When might such “synchronous failure” occur? In mid-2009 the UK government’s chief scientific adviser Sir John Beddington warned that we could expect a ‘perfect storm’ of food, water and energy crises by 2030. However, my own assessment of ‘crisis convergence’ – based on six years of interdisciplinary research poring over thousands of academic studies and industry reports – suggests that “synchronous failure” could arrive as early as 2018 on a business-as-usual model.