Development Studies Conference in Liverpool

Posted on April 27, 2012

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Development Studies Conference in Liverpool

Since 2007 my research group Global Energy Systems at Uppsala University has had a collaboration with the University of Liverpool Management School and Simon Snowden. When he asked me if I could come and participate in the School’s Development Studies Conference on 26 April the answer was, naturally, YES. Simon was to be the chair of a session with the theme, “The Challenge of Global Energy Security”. The rest of the sessions were:
Global Health: Advancing Health Equity;
Food Security and Sustainability in the Developing World;
Emerging Areas in Development Studies: Sport and Development

First various health projects were discussed and what struck me was that there is still a strong bond between the UK and its former colonies. The projects that were discussed were coupled to these former colonies. In terms of health and energy I can name that there are still approximately 2 billion people who do not have access to electricity. There is no doubt that access to energy and electricity would contribute to global health.

Originally it was planned that the energy panel would consist of three people but one of us unfortunately could not come so for company I had only Dr Joanna Pedley, former General Manager for Fuels Product Management, Shell International Oil Products (in a personal capacity). She has been on leave for some months from Shell but at the end of the month will return to work. There were three questions that we were to address:
1.What is/are the main considerations facing the globe regarding Energy in the short/medium/long term?
2. What does this mean for global development?
3. What solutions can we expect to see?

Joanna Pedley started the discussion and some of the points that she took up were that we must change our energy system and the forces driving this change would be health, climate change and that today’s energy use requires large amounts of water. She saw a lack of global leaders who were willing to take up the debate about energy issues.

My presentation naturally raised the issues of Peak Oil, Peak Gas and Peak Coal and since there were mainly economists in the audience I indicated that economists need to educate themselves about Peak Oil. One of the most important details to understand is that conventional and unconventional oil resources may be large and may produce similar substances but they can only do so at different rates – i.e. the “sizes of the tanks” may not be so dissimilar but the “sizes of the taps” are very different.

Since the panel lacked one member there was plenty of time available for discussion and the debate became lively. It is interesting that, in the debate, Joanna Pedley’s position approached my own and after the debate she stated that, in fact, we were not so far apart in our view of the future.

Of the other two sessions, it was mainly the one on food security that interested me and I was attracted to the idea that we should plan for green areas in our cities where we shall only plant trees and bushes that produce edible fruits and berries. I will return to that idea.

That the conference was held at an appropriate time is shown by the editorial in the latest issue of the journal Science that carried the following message:

Still more important, however, the global challenges that face us all will only be resolved with new knowledge yielded by basic research. We must explore new means of feeding nine billion people soon. We must find new ways to provide solutions to energy demand and climate change. We must discover how to maintain health in an ever-aging society. So the real question is not “Can we afford to invest in basic research?” It is “How can we afford not to?” Because, as Francis Bacon also wrote, “He that will not apply new remedies must accept new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” – Peter Gruss (www.sciencemag.org, SCIENCE VOL 336 27 APRIL 2012).

(Swedish)
Sedan 2007 har min grupp Globala energisystem vid Uppsala universitet haft sammarbete med University of Liverpool Management School och Simon Snowden. Då han frågade om jag kunde komma och vara med på skolans Development Studies Conference den 26 april blev svaret naturligtvis JA. Simon skulle vara ordförande för en session med temat ”The Challenge of Global Energy Security”. De övriga sessionerna var:

Global Health: Advancing Health Equity;
Food Security and Sustainability in the Developing World;
Emerging Areas in Development Studies: Sport and Development

Först diskuterades olika hälsoprojekt och vad som slog mig var att det fortfarande finns ett starkt band mellan Storbritannien och deras gamla kolonier. De projekt som diskuterades just var kopplade till de gamla kolonierna. Vad det gäller hälsa och energi kan jag nämna att det fortfarande finns cirka 2 miljarder som inte har tillgång till elektricitet. Det är ingen tvekan om att tillgång till energi och elektricitet skulle vara positivt för den globala hälsan.

Det var tänkt att energipanelen skulle bestå av tre personer, men en av vi tilltänkta kunde tyvärr inte komma så vid min sida fick jag Dr. Joanna Pedley, former General Manager for Fuels Product Management, Shell International Oil Products (in a personal capacity). Hon har varit tjänstledig under några månader från Shell men vid månadskiftet går hon tillbaka till bolaget. Det var tre frågor som vi fritt skulle behandla:

1. What is/are the main considerations facing the globe regarding Energy in the short/medium/long term?
2. What does this mean for global development?
3. What solutions can we expect to see?

Joanna Pedley inledde och några av de punkter som hon tog upp var att vi måste ändra vårt energisystem och drivkraften till förändringen skulle vara hälsa, klimatförändringar och att dagens energianvändning kräver stora vattenresurser. Någon brist på energi fanns inte med under inledningsanförandet. Vad hon framförallt saknade var globala ledare som var villig att lyfta fram energifrågan i debatten.

Mitt anförande lyfte naturligtvis fram Peak Oil, Peak Gas och Peak Coal och då det framförallt var ekonomer som lyssnade markerade jag vad ekonomer måste lära sig om Peak Oil. En av de viktigaste detaljerna att förstå är att samma resurser konventionell och ickekonventionell olja har olika storlek på kranen då man producerar olja från resurserna.

Att en person saknades i panelen öppnade för rikligt med tid till diskussion och det blev en livlig debatt. Det intressanta var att Joanna Pedley i debatten närmade sig min åsikt och efter debatten konstaterade hon att vi egentligen inte stod så långt ifrån varandra då det gäller framtiden.

Av de övriga två sessionerna var framförallt den om matsäkerhet intressant och jag fastnade för iden att då vi planerar grönytor i våra städer skall vi bara plantera träd och buskar som har ätbara frukter och bär. Den tanken skall jag återkomma till.

Att konferensen ligger i tiden bevisas av det faktum att ledaren i det senaste numret av Science för fram följande budskap:

Still more important, however, the global challenges that face us all will only be resolved with new knowledge yielded by basic research. We must explore new means of feeding nine billion people soon. We must find new ways to provide solutions to energy demand and climate change. We must discover how to maintain health in an ever-aging society. So the real question is not “Can we afford to invest in basic research?” It is “How can we afford not to?” Because, as Francis Bacon also wrote, “He that will not apply new remedies must accept new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” – Peter Gruss (www.sciencemag.org, SCIENCE VOL 336 27 APRIL 2012).

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