A crude future

I have just finished watching the ABC documentary Crude about the origins and history of oil and the consequences of its use. The thought provoking video is available from the above linked website. By looking at the conditions that produced the major oil reserves the documentary ponders whether our burning of oil and other fossil fuels could once more trigger a global ocean anoxia event, only much more rapidly than in history.

Global warming as a product of humankind's large-scale release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not a new concept for me. I can remember Earth Watch on television in the mid-80's warning of the greenhouse effect and was aware of literature pre-dating this. Change can be both wonderful and scary, but I fear for the consequences on world societies of climate change and the increased consumption of other resources by developed and developing nations. One of my excuses for travel is to see the world while I still can, before the Barrier Reef is gone, or social unrest destroys a country or even the cost of fuel makes air travel unaffordable once more. Will these things happen? I don't yet know, I hope not. And I am bad for flying so much, a highly polluting form of transport (well, I do catch trains and other public transport, where possible – except in China!).

The future will prove challenging and I am certain we will find some unexpected solutions to some of the problems. However, it is dangerous to plan for such solutions rather than prepare for the consequences should they not be found. As Crude discusses, the point at which the remaining oil supplies are less than what has already been extracted ("peak oil") has already been, or will soon be, passed, while demand is still increasing. So cutting down greenhouse emissions by reducing the burning of oil makes sense in more ways than one. After all, we need it not just for fuel, but for plastics, medicines, lubricants and many, many other uses fundamental to the way we live today.

Filed under: