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The Nexus of Peak Oil, Climate Change and Infrastructure
Sarah Kuck, 15 Jun 08

DCP%20Energy%20Transition%20Intersection%20Diagram.JPG The creation an efficient, effective and fair U.S. climate policy is utterly important, and overdue. But, argues Dynamic Cities Project founder Bryn Davidson, unless we take Peak Oil into consideration, we may end up in a situation that pits energy security against climate change concerns.

Davidson told the 30 or so people squeezed into a board room at the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment that only by coupling policy on Peak Oil and climate change, will we succeed in reaching a sustainable future. (Take a look at what Peak Oil looks like here.)

Although climate change is the larger threat, Davidson said, the magnitude of Peak Oil will soon outweigh climate change concerns, as fossil fuels are ingrained in almost our entire infrastructure.

“Peak Oil is an economic bulldozer that comes on and changes everything,” Davidson said. “A climate strategy that ignores Peak Oil would be like sticking our heads in the sand.”

Davidson’s presentation illustrated how combining the nexus of Peak Oil and Climate Change has severe local implications for food production and prices, immigration and refugees, liability of homes and cities, economy, inflation, jobs, and political stability and safety. Integrating Peak Oil and climate change into the practice of planning and design, Davidson said, will be necessary to making a successful global energy transition.

The strategy that emerges is one that “thinks outside the extrapolation” box and moves us toward a post-carbon future. In this scenario, we would “power-down” fossil-fuel dependent energy and transportation systems and “power-up” clean and resilient sources of energy.

Davidson said that integrating strategies into mainstream planning can be done by creating new clean and resilient sources of energy and relocalizing our economies. He encourages cities to start with acknowledging the Peak Oil and Climate nexus and then move quickly into a discussion about scenarios, targets and adaption plans.

Local governments in cities such as Portland, Ore., and San Francisco are conducting studies and implementing task forces to research the risks related to both Peak Oil and climate change.

Davidson pointed out that a multitude of solutions and cooperative global and grassroots efforts will be necessary to make the energy transition. From net-zero buildings to grid-tied solar power, wind-energy co-ops to district heating, this congress of solutions is made up of tools that, thankfully, are already here. Communities across the globe are finding new ways to start their own renewable energy facilities, build new modes of transportation and imagine new ways of decreasing their carbon footprint.

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The presentation is a fascinating analysis of how to do urban planning with the contingencies of peak oil and climate change built-in. Thanks for sharing! This info needs to get distributed widely.

Posted by: Anne on 16 Jun 08

I was a member of Portland's Peak Oil Task Force and helped craft their Peak Oil plan.

I am working with eleven neighborhoods in Portland to deploy a new community solutions tool that helps relieve the pain of high transportation and food costs. Bright Neighbor helps neighbors safely congregate and effectively build community.

Portland's value system is based on community connectedness, diversity, responsibility to the environment, sustainability and equity for all.

The problem is, there is not equity for all. Peak Oil reveals the money system as an unfair advantage for the rich while hard working people can't keep up with energy price increases. We, as a society, literally can't afford to live they way we have been living.

Peak Oil is here, now, and immediate local community building and food/water security solutions need to be deployed. Now.

Posted by: Randy White on 16 Jun 08

Who was it that first said: The oil crisis will save us from the global warming problem.

It probably won't be quite that easy but I'm still optimistic.

Posted by: Pierre on 18 Jun 08

I think a better way to rephrase that quote is:
IF we are intelligent about our solutions, the oil crisis will save us from the global warming problem.

Fortunately it is beginning to look like the economically viable solutions to climate change will be those which take the economic shifts that Peak Oil will wreak. All in all they really are two sides of the same coin, which is how can we readjust our currently existing systems to enable stable societies indefinitely into the future.

Posted by: Alan on 18 Jun 08

Bookmarked and Digged and Blogged! Finally someone is making sense both environmentally and economically. We can't ignore climate change, but we can't ignore the threat of economic disaster either!

Posted by: iGreenify on 18 Jun 08

I think the biggest mistake to avoid in the next 10 years is switching to coal. We're still some way off peak coal and if we suddenly started to liquefy coal to make petrol or diesel for transportation... It might help the economy (especially in places with lots of coal e.g. China) but it would put huge amounts of CO2 in the air.

Posted by: Pierre on 18 Jun 08

It's incredibly refreshing to hear that finally peak oil is being taken seriously amidst the cacophony of celebrities crowing about climate change. While global warming is a serious problem, it's nowhere near as huge a threat to civilization as peak oil is in the next few decades. Coincidentally, the solutions to climate change will probably develop naturally out of an intelligent response to peak oil. I highly suggest reading "Earth: The Sequel", if anyone is interested in learning more about realistic solutions to both of these issues.

Posted by: Brendan on 20 Jun 08



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