Get ready for a warmer world, Shell says

The more chaotic "oceans" scenario has less regulation, higher cumulative emissions and higher energy prices. The company says:

Market forces rather than policies shape the energy system: oil and coal remain part of the energy mix but renewable energy also grows. By the 2060s solar becomes the world's largest energy source.

But Bentham said that "neither scenario is able to meet the 2 degree" target agreed to during U.N. climate negotiations by the world's governments, including the U.S. "That's one of the troubling features in the work," he said.

The report says, in a section called "Reflections on development and sustainability":

One conclusion that can be drawn from the New Lens Scenarios is that substantive change will not come about by itself -- as a result of pricing signals or policy responses delayed until crises become apparent. A positive outcome requires a series of proactive, far-sighted and coordinated national and international policy developments that, to date, seem beyond the bounds of plausibility.

Then again, as Yogi Berra may or may not have said: Predictions are hard, especially about the future. Shell didn't see the global financial crisis coming in its last scenario, and either political organizing or technology breakthroughs could affect the climate-change equation, in unforeseeable ways.

So what is Shell doing about all this? The company has invested in biofuels and advocated strongly for technology to capture and store CO2 emitted from power plants. In the policy arena, unlike other fossil-fuel giants, Shell supports greenhouse gas regulation. The company says: "Government action is needed and we support an international framework that puts a price on CO2, encouraging the use of all CO2-reducing technologies."

Said Bentham: "It's not a question of clean fossil fuels or green renewables. It's clean and green."

[Shell is currently updating its scenarios website and when it does, I'll post a couple of relevant charts on energy mix and CO2 emissions scenarios. Disclosure: In 2011 and 2012, I was paid by Shell to moderate events on the environment in Houston.]

Shell station image by Lee Jordan via Compfight cc.