The new scenarios explore two possible ways the 21st century could unfold, with dramatically different implications for society and the world’s energy system. One scenario sees cleaner-burning natural gas becoming the most important energy source globally by the 2030s and early action to limit carbon dioxide emissions. The other sees solar becoming the top source by about 2070, but with slower action to address the threat of climate change.
“These scenarios show how the choices made by governments, businesses and individuals in the next few years will have a major impact on the way the future unfolds,” said Dr Cho-Oon Khong, Shell’s International Chief Political Analyst.
Dr Khong is in Kuala Lumpur from July 3 to 5 for the scenarios forum, which has gathered participants and stakeholders from the government, private sector, media, academe, and non-government organisations.
At the forum, Dr Khong described the two scenarios as Mountains and Oceans. In both cases, Shell expects energy demand could double over the 50 years, with the world’s population headed toward 9.5 billion people by 2060 and emerging economies lifting millions out of poverty for the first time. The scenarios “highlight the need for business and government to find new ways to collaborate, fostering policies that promote the development and use of cleaner energy, and improve energy efficiency,” Dr Khong said.
In Mountains, Shell sees a strong role for the government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures, developing more compact cities, transform the global transport network, and paving the way to unlock more natural gas resources. New policies unlock plentiful natural gas resources – making it the largest global energy source by the 2030s – and accelerate carbon capture and storage technology, supporting a cleaner energy system.
The Oceans scenario describes a more prosperous and volatile world where energy demand surges, due to strong economic growth. Market forces rather than policies will shape the energy system, with solar energy becoming the largest energy source in 2070s.
Together, they look further into the future than many other outlooks and highlight some surprising possible developments. Both see global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) dropping to near zero by 2100. One factor is increasing use of technology that takes CO2 out of the atmosphere, for instance by burning biomass to produce electricity, and then storing emissions underground. Although the Oceans scenario sees a dramatic increase in solar power, it also envisions greater fossil fuel use and higher total CO2 emissions over the century than the Mountains scenario, which will likely have more impact on the world’s climate.
The scenarios highlight areas of public policy likely to have the greatest influence on the development of cleaner fuels and renewables, improvements in energy efficiency and on moderating greenhouse gas emissions. They include:
- Measures to promote the development of compact, energy-efficient cities, particularly in Asia and other rapidly urbanising parts of the world.
- Mandates for greater efficiency in areas such as transportation and buildings.
- Policies to encourage the safe development of the world’s abundant supply of cleaner-burning natural gas -- and to promote its wider use in power generation, transport and other areas.
- A price on CO2 emissions and other incentives to speed the adoption of technologies to manage emissions, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS).
To explore Mountains and Oceans in more detail, download Shell’s New Lens Scenarios at www.shell.com/scenarios.
Shell has a 40-year history of using scenario planning to explore possible future landscapes and aid strategic decision-making. The latest publication continues a tradition of sharing summaries of the scenarios to contribute to the public debate about possible ways to tackle some of society’s long-term challenges.