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OECD: Future Global Shock – Improving Risk Governance

In this project, public and private experts explore how to increase resilience to Future Global Shocks. The Project will generate options for governments to enhance capacity to identify, anticipate, control, contain and/or mitigate large disasters.

The project recognises that shocks can provide opportunities for progress, not just negative consequences. Amongst the inputs from which the final report will draw are six background papers and case studies on the following themes: Systemic Financial RiskPandemicsCyber RisksGeomagnetic StormsSocial Unrest and Anticipating Extreme Events.

Read the entire report: “OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies: Future Global Shocks“, PDF.

The Perfect Storm and Black Swan Theory

The BP oil crisis in the Mexican gulf, deadly heat waves in Russia, earthquakes in Haiti (7.0 Mw) and Chile (8.8 Mw) and flooding in Australia caused almost 300.000 deaths from natural disasters in 2010 (1).

A few months into 2011 New Zealand is hit by a 6.3 Mw earthquake followed by the Japan 9.0 Mw earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The situation in Libya, Syria and many other Arabic and African countries adds uncertainty to global stability. The complexity of the situation demands a new approach to early warning systems for natural disasters and reduction of global systemic risk.

[Read more...]

Closing in on a carbon-based solar cell

To make large sheets of carbon available for light collection, Indiana University Bloomington chemists have devised an unusual solution — attach what amounts to a 3-D bramble patch to each side of the carbon sheet. Using that method, the scientists say they were able to dissolve sheets containing as many as 168 carbon atoms, a first.

Source: Indiana University.

Nano-engineered Bug electric car

Conceived by designer Ricardo Fedrizzi, the “Bug” is an agile urban micro-car for two people that allows safe, brisk and sustainable commutation on city roads.

Touting an aerodynamic shape, with fluid curves, which gives greater efficiency by increasing the autonomy, the new electric car by the Brazilian designer focuses mainly on maximum weight reduction, promoting economy and performance. The micro-car replaces the glass windows and windshield with much lighter and resilient polycarbonate to ensure complete safety. Made in recyclable and renewable materials, such as polymers with a load of vegetable fiber, the Bug comes with both light and tough alloys, designed using nanotechnology, to allow a safe and an environmentally responsible traveling, and that too at an affordable price.

Source: The Design Blog. Also see “15 Concept Cars: Too awesome to go into production” from AutoMotto and “10 concept cars to drive us in the future” from AutoMotto.

World crude oil production may peak in 2014

Predicting the end of oil has proven tricky and often controversial, but Kuwaiti scientists now say that global oil production will peak in 2014.

Their work represents an updated version of the famous Hubbert model, which correctly predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil reserves would peak within 20 years. Many researchers have since tried using the model to predict when worldwide oil production might peak.

Source: LiveScience. Read the entire report “Forecasting World Crude Oil Production Using Multicyclic Hubbert Model” at the American Chemical Society (subscription required). Read an excerpt from the abstract:

Even though forecasting should be handled with extreme caution, it is always desirable to look ahead as far as possible to make an intellectual judgment on the future supplies of crude oil. Over the years, accurate prediction of oil production was confronted by fluctuating ecological, economical, and political factors, which imposed many restrictions on its exploration, transportation, and supply and demand. The objective of this study is to develop a forecasting model to predict world crude oil supply with better accuracy than the existing models. Even though our approach originates from Hubbert model, it overcomes the limitations and restrictions associated with the original Hubbert model.

As opposed to Hubbert single-cycle model, our model has more than one cycle depending on the historical oil production trend and known oil reserves. The presented method is a viable tool to predict the peak oil production rate and time. The model is simple, accurate, and totally data driven, which allows a continuous updating once new data are available. The analysis of 47 major oil producing countries estimates the world’s ultimate crude oil reserve by 2140 BSTB and the remaining recoverable oil by 1161 BSTB. The world production is estimated to peak in 2014 at a rate of 79 MMSTB/D. OPEC has remaining reserve of 909 BSTB, which is about 78% of the world reserves. OPEC production is expected to peak in 2026 at a rate of 53 MMSTB/D. On the basis of 2005 world crude oil production and current recovery techniques, the world oil reserves are being depleted at an annual rate of 2.1%.

Jeremy Rifkin: The third industrial revolution

We need to implement reglobalization from the bottom-up in order to achieve a more sustainable global economy. Geopolitics is an extension of the Enlightenment view of human nature, the idea that we pursue our utilitarian pleasures and individual self-interests. In geopolitics, the nation-state becomes a macro view of that. Nations deal with nations by being rational, detached and calculating, pursuing self-interests, excercising power and acquiring more capital and wealth. That’s why Copenhagen failed. The world leaders weren’t thinking biosphere, they were thinking geopolitics. Everyone was looking out for their nation’s self-interest.

What we need to do is attempt biosphere politics. Governing units are going to change–I think there’s going to be a shift toward continentalization. The EU is a first attempt at organizing a new frame of reference across continents, but it’s a transitional governing form. The Asian Union, African Union and South American Union are in their early stages.

Source: New Scientist.

Scarcity Bites – A Decade Too Soon!

Peak Plutonium?

It is our contention that energy is not the only resource that will be scarce in the immediate future. We envisage scarcities of food, water, and a whole variety of minerals that are crucial to the operation of a modern economy. Our thinking so far has focussed on the 2020s as the decade in which scarcity starts to be felt (we call it ‘Scarcity Bites’), but recent events have drawn our attention to a much earlier manifestation.

A recent article in The Independent (see below for link), has drawn our attention to the case of the Rare Earth Elements (REEs), a group of 17 rare metals that are essential to the manufactures of the modern economy which are in a situation of scarcity (demand outstrips supply). The picture is further complicated by China being the main source of the REEs (it supplies over 95% of the world total of REEs) and following a policy of restricting their export. This conjures up some fascinating possibilities for the future.

Source: The European Futures Observatory.

Nature: 2020 visions

For the first issue of the new decade, Nature asked a selection of leading researchers and policy-makers where their fields will be ten years from now. We invited them to identify the key questions their disciplines face, the major roadblocks and the pressing next steps.

Contributions include: Peter Norvig on search, David A. Relman on the microbiome, David B. Goldstein on personalized medicine, Daniel M. Kammen on energy, Daniel R. Weinberger on mental health, Leslie C. Aiello on hominin palaeontology, George Church on synthetic biology, John L. Hennessey on universities, Jeffrey Sachs on global governance, Adam Burrows on astronomy, Gary P. Pisano on drug discovery, Joshua R. Goldstein on demographics, Paul Anastas on chemistry, Richard Klausner and David Baltimore on the National Institutes of Health, David R. Montgomery on soil, Thomas M. Baer and Nicholas P. Bigelow on lasers, Robert D. Holt on ecology, Jeremy K. Nicholson on metabolomics.

Source: Nature.

(c) Copyright Plausible Futures Newsletter 2013