Monday, 29 April 2013

This is My2050 - What Will Yours Be LIke?

I have finally got around to having a go at the My2050 game. Let me just say from the outset, if you take this seriously it is really, really hard. The game lets you explore and test your preferred solution for reducing CO2 emissions to 20% of 1990 levels by 2050. Also, if you have the window open at the same time as writing a blogpost (like I have now) the music is really, REALLY irritating, so mute your PC/laptop/tablet.

The project is run by the Department for Energy & Climate Change and is a simplified version of the 2050 calculator which was tested around the country in trials and deliberative dialogues. Here is a DECC summary of the wider project and Sciencewise host a detailed account of the deliberative aspects.

So, first off, I really like this tool. I like that it’s open online to anyone who wants a go, its visual and fun to use, and I like that it involves trade-offs and gives a little indication of the consequences of your choices for both production and demand. Without having really thought it through, I was inclined towards nuclear energy as a comparatively secure and clean energy source (in my opinion). According to My2050 I’d built 50 – FIFTY – large new nuclear power plants and I hadn’t even reduced our carbon emissions by half. I had to rethink that. Going into My2050 I'd have said I have a few problems relating to land use from biomass, I don’t want to support 7x as much onshore wind and I don’t really want to put all my eggs into as-yet-unproven CCS and marine power. In maintaining that, you are left with a lot of fossil fuels or a very energy-frugal life. So, you have to rethink a lot of things you think you have a position on.

So without further ado, here is where I currently am. I’m actually interesting in benchmarking this for 12 months to see what I think in 2014 but in the meantime I’m sure you will all be gladdened to see that I have imagined a future for 2050 where our CO2 emissions are 19% of 1990 levels.

I have committed you all to: bioenergy crops on land half the size of Wales (I didn't want that but it's the baseline), half the fossil fuels we use now (half of which are storing their carbon), 13 new large nuclear power stations, an extra 5,000 onshore wind turbines, 40000 offshore wind turbines, 10m solar panels per person and 27000 wave machines. It takes some imagining, doesn’t it? And that’s just the supply side.

In terms of demand, I’ve doubled our manufacturing industry and half of it stores its carbon (gulp). 75% homes have additional insulation and our average indoor temperature is maintained at 17 deg C. 9 in 10 domestic heat systems are electric, cars are used for a maximum of 60% of journeys and 4 in 5 cars are powered electrically or by hydrogen fuel cells.

After you have manoeuvred the levers you still have to ensure you have balanced your energy security (including that your demand choices are not incompatible with your supply choices). Once you’re happy you can choose to submit your pathway to DECC, you can have your own preference e-mailed to you and you can share either the general website or your own preferences on Facebook or Twitter. Then, once you’ve submitted you can compare your choices to the submitting population and to high profile participants (in my case this was swimmer Duncan Goodhew who, incidentally, I was photographed with at the local swimming baths when they were still called swimming baths). My choices were alot closer to those of the "2050 Project Manager" but I bet s/he hasn't got an Olympic medal.

I thought it was a very interesting exercise. Yes, it trades off some sophistication for utility, but it is still effective in relaying the scale of what it means to reduce our carbon emissions. Another thing I like about the calculator is that tens of thousands of pathways have been submitted to DECC which when you think about it is pretty amazing. I love that (a) I can share my thoughts with you and maybe have a debate, and (b) you can see links to preferred pathways of key stakeholders (although these are mostly derived from the 2050 Calculator, a slightly more complex predecessor of My2050 Pathways). There are pathways from, for example, Mike Childs - Friends of the Earth, Duncan Rimmer – National Grid and author Mark Lynas.

What a great communication tool for NGOs, "thought leaders" and anyone wanting a public debate. What a great stimulus! Come on then, let’s have some debate – what do you think of my choices? And what do you think of the tool?

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, interesting. I had a go at it and what struck me was the limited number of policy options. It more or less assumed that we would continue to live as we do today, consuming what we do today, travelling as much as we do today and with the same pattern of social inequality.

    So, for example, there was no consideration of the effects of reducing inequality, of moving to a no-growth economy,or of measures to limit the population. Nor was there any scope for considering the issue at the EU level with such things as reducing global trade and focusing on the internal market, or of EU countries taking more than their share of responsibility for particular measures e.g. Mediterranean countries using less for heating, coastal countries producing more by tidal power etc.

    In short, it reflected a typically British mindset that all problems require a specifically British solution rather than working in co-operation with our European friends.