Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shell Scenarios launches New Lenses on Future Cities

Back in June, Shell launched a new project at its "Scenarios" site it is calling "New Lenses on Future Cities."  The project is essentially an effort to project multiple visions of how the next century could go related to energy, development, and land use.  One of the visions, "Mountains," assumes a strong government intervention to address climate change; another vision, "Oceans," assumes weak government intervention.  Regardless of whether one agrees with all of the predictions resulting from the assumptions--I did not--the project still seems a useful tools as a starting point against which to push or pull in forming one's own vision of how the next century might go in energy and land use.  Here is the set-up:

By 2050, around three quarters of the population is expected to be living in cities. The greatest growth in urban population over this period will be in China, India, Nigeria and the US. The most dramatic growth will come in thousands of smaller towns that will rapidly develop into cities. Much of the infrastructure for these new cities has yet to be designed. Booz & Company (in a study for the World Wildlife Fund) estimates that the total investment in urban infrastructure and operations in the next three decades will exceed a staggering $350 trillion.

The largest share of this will be in the emerging markets. Financing these investment needs will be a major challenge and will require significant innovations in global finance. If these needs can be met, it would constitute a major source of aggregate demand for the world economy for a long time to come.

Today, cities use 66% of the world’s total energy – and in the next 30 years this figure could increase to nearly 80%. City development in the past has been driven by assumptions that energy would be available at a relatively low price. The lack of a perceived need to secure energy supply and to develop planning policies has led to urban sprawl and energy inefficiency.

Here is the trailer:


Stephen R. Miller

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