Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
We need fossil fuels to fuel the world. We don’t have the technology available now to meet the energy demands of the world with clean energy. We need to ‘bridge the gap’ between now and the time when these technologies are fully developed, with things like shale gas and new nuclear. Don’t we? This familiar rhetoric is challenged by an innovative interactive infographic and website launched today by the UK Tar Sands Network. Based on the latest research, the online resource demonstrates that everyone on the planet can have a high-quality lifestyle, completely fuelled by existing clean energy technologies.
‘We’re constantly told by governments and industry that we need fossil fuels to power the world,’ says Danny Chivers, the researcher behind the infographic. ‘This simply isn’t true. Here, for the first time we’ve brought together research to show that a cleaner, fairer energy future is possible, and presented it in a publicly accessible way.’
Two Energy Futures lays out two possible future scenarios. The ‘Fossil-Fuelled Future’ is based on recent predictions by the International Energy Agency (IEA). This is the future the IEA believe we are heading for if governments and industry continue with their current energy development paths and commitments on energy and climate change. In other words, this future is not a worst-case scenario – it’s the best that politicians and businesses are currently offering us.
In this scenario we’d almost certainly be locked into disastrous runaway climate change and experiencing far more of its consequences such as serious floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts, extinctions, collapsing food supplies and the loss of millions of people’s homes, lives and livelihoods by as early as 2035.
The alternative scenario – the ‘Cleaner Fairer Future’ – is much brighter. In this future, there is a decent chance of avoiding runaway climate change and all of the devastating effects it would bring, by relying entirely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar (both of which are supported by more than 90 per cent of the world’s population). Rather than basing the model on current wasteful and inequitable energy use figures, as others have done previously, they instead asked how much energy was actually needed for a decent quality of life, using estimates taken from the Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future report, and started from there.
The figure used is 13,000 KWh of energy per person per year, which includes all the energy used on people’s behalf for public services, manufacturing, etc. In order to achieve this, the rich minority would need to reduce their energy use to allow access to this amount for everyone else. For most people, 13,000 KWh is much more than they currently use (the average current energy use per person in the developing world is 5,500 Kwh/year). This is enough for a high quality of life by global Northern standards, but only if we are living less wastefully and more efficiently. This means good public transport and reduced flying, energy efficient homes, more local food and manufacturing, and reduced consumerism would all be necessary.
The amount of energy it is possible to generate from renewable sources was based on figures from Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air by respected energy expert Dr David MacKay. This is perhaps the most surprising, and reassuring, finding of the research: that everyone on the planet can have a high-quality lifestyle, fuelled by existing clean energy technologies and in an environmentally sustainable way – even taking predicted population growth into account.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this world is only possible with some hefty political and economic changes; a future where energy is fairly shared out and tight controls on energy crops are possible would require a very different kind of economic system to the one currently in place, the report says. As long as GDP growth is used as our main measure of ‘progress’, reducing industrialised nations’ energy use to a sensible and fair level would be extremely difficult if not impossible. But different kinds of economies are possible and are starting to enter mainstream debate, as we saw at the Rio+20 UN Sustainability Conference in 2012.
‘We face a disastrous future if we accept our governments’ inadequate emissions reduction policies and the fossil fuel industry’s terrifying expansion plans,’ says Chivers. ‘It doesn’t have to be this way. An alternative energy mix, without fossil fuels or nuclear power, is perfectly possible. The barriers are not technological, but political.’
The developers of Two Energy Futures hope that it will provide an invaluable resource for those supporting and fighting for clean energy and challenge the rhetoric that we don’t have the technology to go fossil fuel-free at the moment.
‘There are people all over the planet taking action to ensure a cleaner, fairer world,’ says Jess Worth of the UK Tar Sands Network. ‘We hope that this website will arm them with the information they need to help bring about a fossil-free energy future.’
Explore the infographic: www.twoenergyfutures.org
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going