For 40 years the Shell oil company has been putting out reports on what expects in the future. This year’s report titled New Lens Scenarios sees passenger road transportation being “nearly oil-free” by the year 2070. The report is in the plural, scenarios, because the futurists at Shell envision two possible outcomes, which they call “Mountains” and “Oceans”. In both scenarios the world’s population will grow to 9 billion people by 2050 and by 2070 electricity and hydrogen will be the primary means of fueling road transportation.
In the Mountains “lens”, existing governmental and economic power structures are maintained, natural gas will become dominant by the 2030s and demand for liquid fuels will go down. A more urban population will drive much less, about 1,200 miles a year, and use public transport and bicycles more. This lens sees economic growth stagnating and the world failing to meet the target of no more than a 2 degree centigrade rise in average global temperatures.
In the Oceans lens, Shell predicts a changing economic structure to one that is more accommodating of compromise. The world in this more collective scenario would be a more prosperous one, but also more volatile. Dwindling resources of food, energy, and water become the new priorities. Solar and renewable energy becomes more dominant, though fossil fuels will still be used and as with the other scenario, global warming continues.
There’s way too much in the report for a single news blog item, and you’d like, you can read the full PDF file here. A more complete explanation of the nature of the Mountains and Oceans scenarios from the report is below.
Mountains is a world in which those occupying commanding advantage (at the top) generally work to create stability in ways that promote the persistence of the status quo. there is a steady, self-reinforcing, lock-in of incumbent power and institutions. this lock-in constrains the economic potential of some sectors of society, but enables established sectors aligned with market forces to unlock resources that require significant capital and new technology. As for the less fortunate, the thinness of social safety nets is not completely offset by the growth in philanthropy, characterised by an eruption of foundations endowed by increasing numbers of billionaires.
Oceans is a world in which competing interests and the diffusion of influence are met with a rising tide of accommodation. this trajectory is driven by a growing global population with increasing economic empowerment, and a growing recognition by the currently advantaged that their continued success requires compromise. steady reform of economic and financial structures keeps pace with the development of fast-emerging nations and progressively unlocks the productivity of broader sectors in society. But volatility and multiple constituencies impede policy developments in other areas, so tight resources are unlocked primarily by market forces.