Cornwall 2050 Project: Scenarios

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We identified 4 potential future scenarios related to what people in Cornwall have been telling us about how they see Cornwall in 2050:

Green Power Up, Green Power Down, Science Futures, Handle with Care

These ideas were to inform the Cornwall Climate Change Action Plan, which was being prepared for the Cornwall Strategic Partnership, in the run-up to the ‘One Cornwall’ transition.


Green Power Up:

Description:

Focus is on the decoupling of economic growth from increasing carbon emissions, energy use, and resource depletion, i.e. ‘clean growth’.

Emphasis is placed on a rigorous carbon management approach, involving massive expansion of large scale renewable energy projects (including rapid expansion of biofuel production), in conjunction with advances in energy conservation, and efficiency programmes can deliver a transition to a low-carbon economy without substantial lifestyle change for the people of Cornwall.

Likely impacts (2050)

Pros:

  • Climate change/carbon reduction targets will have been achieved.
  • Increase in renewable energy capacity, plugs the potential energy gap.
  • Reliance on imported fossil fuels and power will have been reduced.
  • Economic benefit for Cornwall, with rapid growth of jobs within and value added from the sustainable energy and farming sectors.
  • Revival of farming sector in Cornwall, increased energy cropping and carbon farming.
  • Cornwall avoids worst effects of the global downturn associated with increased energy costs, and scarcity, and any impact of the carbon constrained economy.
  • Cornwall develops a strong knowledge economy associated with carbon reduction and becomes a global centre for low-carbon solutions exporting skilled people and knowledge globally, as per previous status as a centre of excellence for hard rock mining.
  • Increased levels of highly skilled/ paid jobs inputting extra money to the economy as has made a very slight impact on levels of happiness.
  • Reduced guilt and fear associated with the possibility of hardship associated with climate impacts and economic breakdown, associated with resource depletion, has contributed to slightly higher levels of happiness.

Cons:

  • Some individuals will find the required large scale energy technologies deployed across Cornwall unsightly.
  • Inappropriate sitting of energy technologies could lead to biodiversity loss.
  • Inappropriate sitting of energy technologies could lead to noise pollution.
  • High costs associated with developing the infrastructure to provide improved public transport service, and facilitate the fuel shift.
  • More land devoted to energy cropping and carbon farming, hence knock-on impact on food prices, and increased pressure on available land and biodiversity.
  • Cornwall’s traditional industrial landscapes are replaced by modern industrial landscapes.
  • Cornwall is still highly dependant on national and/ or global trade for commodities and manufactured goods, other than energy demands and some food stuffs.
  • Some feeling of aesthetic degradation of the Cornish environment a industrialised landscape of the landscape, risk of creating a self perpetuating fall in relative house prices allowing easier access to homes for first time buyers and key workers.

Rating:

Resilience: *** (medium)
Climate: *** (cool’ish)


Green Power Down:

Description:

Focus is on collaborative approaches to building resilient, sustainable communities in the face of the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil/ gas. Whereby individual lifestyles are adjusted in order to reduce individuals consumption to a level that can be sustainably maintained indefinitely into the future.

Significant emphasis is placed upon promoting community approaches that build self sufficiency at a market town or district level.

Individuals subscribing to this mindset tend to believe in the need to establish a steady state economy (virtuous circle) where externalised costs of the industrial system, and added benefit provided by ecosystem services, are factored into decision-making (i.e. waste is considered a resource).

Decisions are made considering the long term implications of any actions focused on ensuring the collective survival of the local community, following the principals of permaculture.

Likely impacts (2050)

Pros:

  • Climate change/carbon reduction targets will have been achieved.
  • Reduced demand for energy will have reduced potential energy gap.
  • Reliance on imported fossil fuels and power will have been reduced.
  • Economic benefit for Cornwall, with rapid growth of energy sector jobs and increased spend on local food produce, ensures that a greater amount of the money spent in Cornwall is retained
  • in the county.
  • Economic benefit for Cornwall, with rapid growth of farming sector jobs and increased spend on local produce ensures more of households and organisations food budgets are retained within the Cornish economy.
  • Health benefits associated with increased levels of walking and cycling.
  • Health benefits associated with improved diet, due to less processed foods.
  • Reduced personal mobility requires individuals to spend more time in their local communities thereby promoting community cohesion.
  • Closer relationship between producers and consumers, promotes community cohesion.
  • More local focus of economic activity, and collectivist approach, promotes community cohesion.

Cons:

  • Some individuals will find the required volume of small and medium scale energy technologies deployed across Cornwall unsightly.
  • Inappropriate sitting of energy technologies could lead to biodiversity loss.
  • Inappropriate sitting of energy technologies could lead to noise pollution.
  • Personal mobility significantly reduced.
  • Long distance travel very expensive, preventing exotic holidays and trips to visit friends and relatives in distant places.
  • Viability of current economic system challenged, by reduced goods flows.
  • Personal choice, particularly regarding food stuffs, significantly reduced (especially for out of season and exotic produce), although slightly offset by growth of alternative local varieties of some crops.

Rating:

Resilience: ***** (high)
Climate: *** (cool’ish)


Science Futures:

Description:

Focus is on pursuit of economic growth, with a lack of confidence that renewable energy can deliver.

Emphasis is that scientific progress and technological advancements will have provided ‘silver bullets’ to solve the challenges of climate change and threats associated with worsening energy security.

Energy Likely impacts (2050)

Pros:

  • No major behaviour change required
  • Reduces the extent to which the level of carbon emissions could potentially have risen.
  • Some additional jobs in construction and energy sectors, should nuclear and/or coal power stations need to be built in Cornwall.
  • Allows continuation of high levels of personal mobility.
  • Reduces carbon emissions associated with transportation dramatically.
  • Allows continuation of current levels of personal choice, and food shopping patterns.
  • Produces moderate reductions in carbon emissions associated with food & farming.

Cons:

  • Failure to achieve economy wide carbon reduction targets, thus exacerbating the risk of ‘runaway global warming’ (should temperatures exceed the 2°C threshold).
  • Heavily reliant on imports of specialist inputs, some of which will require fossil fuel inputs and hence will be subject to price increases as oil becomes increasingly scarce.
  • Continuation of unsustainable levels of resource consumption, resulting in degradation of both ecosystem services (worth $35 trillion per annum) and the available resource base for future generations.
  • High levels of dependence on global supply lines requires substantial military spending, and ongoing deployments to protect key UK assets and trading partners.
  • Unknown cost of lifecycle consequences of expanding nuclear energy programme.
  • Global competition for the uranium required for nuclear fission, assuming rapid global shift to nuclear, energy supplies are likely to diminish quickly and prices rise rapidly.
  • Long-term storage costs and risks associated with nuclear waste.
  • Uncertainty over the commercial viability and technology needed for large scale role-out of carbon capture and storage.
  • High carbon emissions associated with nuclear lifecycle, and coal fired power station prior to installation of carbon capture and storage.
  • Requires massive increase in electricity generation and associated impacts.
  • Major issues regarding congestion in towns and cities, and increased demands for expansion of the road network.
  • No community cohesion co-benefits achieved.

Rating:

Resilience: * (low)
Climate: *** (cool)


Handle with Care:

Description:

Focus is on maintaining status quo.

Individuals subscribing to this mindset generally believe that our lifestyles in 2050 can be unchanged from today and hence oppose any progress towards the low-carbon economy, considering the shift itself to be unnecessary, and any impact of their aesthetic appreciation to be a violation of their rights.

Emphasis is on blind faith that difficult problems will be dealt with elsewhere – out of Cornwall – negating any need for unsightly development impacting on the Cornish aesthetic.

Likely impacts (2050)

Pros:

  • Cornwall maintains its current aesthetic largely unchanged.
  • Any short term biodiversity impacts associated with development would be minimised.

Cons:

  • Failure to meet carbon emission reduction targets have resulted in millions of deaths globally due to the impacts of extreme weather events and sea level rise, which is largely attributed to the effects of climate change (which has now reached 3°C above pre-industrial levels).
  • Lack of preparation for oil and gas shortages has resulted in massive increase in fuel poverty (households that spend more than 10% of income on energy), and a expanding energy gap resulting in rolling blackouts and only the most wealthy being able to heat and light their homes using conventional measures.
  • Lack of preparation for oil and gas shortages has resulted in vehicle fuel rationing and the risk that fuel riots have spread to the UK and Cornwall, with all remaining available stocks of liquid fossil fuels limited to use by the emergency services.
  • Those in lower income brackets are unable to afford heating and as such winter deaths of vulnerable groups have massively increased since 2008.
  • Those in lower income brackets, who are unable to pay black-market prices for their vehicle fuel are likely to be confined to their immediate environs.
  • Those in lower income brackets, who are unable to pay black-market prices for their food, are likely to be either malnourished or in the worst cases starve.
  • Increased cost of fossil fuels has lead to economic contraction as businesses are unable to transport their goods to markets or for processing, resulting in mass unemployment.
  • Lack of preparation for oil and gas price rises and shortages, and the consequential break down in the agricultural system, has resulted in food rationing, and the risk that food riots will have spread to the UK and Cornwall.

Rating:

Resilience: * (low)
Climate: * (hot)