13th October 2020
Speaker: Mike Stephenson
Topic: Geological decarbonisation and energy transition: learning from the past
Geology can provide insights into global environmental changes recorded in deep-time, for example mass extinctions, but also historical shifts in energy supply, like the industrial revolution of the 18th Century. A comparison of the two types of change can be instructive not only because of the biogeochemical aspects of both, but also because of similarities in the way that change happens.
Studying deep-time events like the Permian-Triassic extinction and the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum is useful because there are aspects of change in these events that are close in form to the changes we might expect in the near future.
What does the study of deep-time events like the Permian-Triassic extinction (pictured) tell us about change we might expect in the future? (Photo M Stephenson)
Using examples not nearly so far back in time, we can also look at the carbonisation period we now know as the Industrial Revolution, in which geology was so pivotal. The UK carbonised using its high-calorific, easily accessible coal, thereby moving away from the constraints of biosphere carbon to geosphere carbon.
Atmospheric CO2 concentration and historical fossil fuel usage (from MacKay 2009). What do past energy transitions tell us about the transition to come?
What might we learn from previous energy transitions to understand the current transition from an ‘oil and gas economy’ to a renewables economy – one of the biggest challenges for the modern world; and what might similarities between deep-time change and historical energy transition, for example feedbacks and tipping points, tell us about how to respond to change better?
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This event will be delivered online.