Globalization, the internet and climate change

Compiling data for species distribution modelling has led me to look in some depth at the IPCC SRES scenarios. Developing plausible storylines for the future development of the Global economy over the next hundred years is an extremely challenging task, However the IPCC have drawn on their considerable expertise to develop a sophisticated, consensual and inclusive set of scenarios. Without going into great detail, a very simple message struck me as important. The more optimistic scenarios always involve greater convergence between regions and a change towards a service and information economy. In other words “Globalization”.

This suggests that the internet itself could be a major factor in combating global warming. However the section of the World’s population that will suffer most of the negative consequences of global warming, the rural poor, remain largely excluded from access to the internet. I am very interested in the way developments in Open Source software can help to redress this. One of the most positive examples is the Edubuntu project that allows high quality thin client – fat server networks to be built from recycled PCs. I will continue this theme in later posts.

These are the four groups of “storylines” used in the scenario building. Note that the worst case scenario in terms of emissions and consequent climate change arises from A2 or B2.
The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, low population growth, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building, and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into four groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. Two of the fossil-intensive groups were merged in the SPM.

The A2 storyline and scenario family describes a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self-reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in high population growth. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change are more fragmented and slower than in other storylines.

The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same low population growth as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid changes in economic structures toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity, and the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social, and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives

The B2 storyline and scenario family describes a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social, and environmental sustainability. It is a world with moderate population growth, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented toward environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels.

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