Climate and energy in popular culture and geopolitics

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I attended two very different seminars yesterday and today

Yesterday Studiefrämjandet together with Sverok (The Swedish Gaming Federation) organised an evening seminar about climate change, climate angst and climate apocalypse in role playing games, in game culture and in other media (science fiction literature, television etc.). The evening consisted of an invited talk by Leo Calandrella Rudberg, environmental activist and vice chairman at Fältbiologerna (Nature and Youth Sweden/the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation) and a panel about how environmental catastrophes are depicted and processed in gaming culture.

While it was really interesting to listen to an environmental activist who advocated civil disobedience, Leo’s talk was unfortunately not adapted to the theme of the evening so it felt a bit like I attended two separate events. It was however certainly very entertaining to hear about:

  • The role playing game ”Werewolf: The Apocalpyse” where werewolfs (players) hunt down and tear up corporate leaders who  actively pursue environmental apocalypse or who unwittingly contribute to it.
  • The roleplaying game ”Ur varselklotet” and the expansion ”Flodskörden” that builds on Simon Stålenhags retrofuturistic art.
  • The consumerist perspective of many role-playing games (and computer games) where you start with little and then work your way up by acquiring LOOT and better GEAR. How do you plant or propagate sustainability tropes when game mechanics seldom go beyond rewarding individual profit in most role-playing games?
  • The priceless comment that role-playing is a low-carbon hobby since you just sit around a table and talk.

 

Today Utrikespolitiska Institutet (The Swedish Institute for International Affairs) together with the Norwegian embassy organised a breakfast seminar about ”The geopolitics of the energy transformation” (to renewable energy sources). I bumped in to my colleague Leif Dahlberg at the seminar and my CESC ex-colleague Dag Lundén from TeliaSonera was also there.

The topic of the seminar was the just-released 2019 report ”A New World. The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation” by the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation (in cooperation with IRENA, The International Renewable Energy Agency.

I picked up a printed copy of the report and it looks really really interesting, but I also learned that some things were left out of the report (like the fact we are not on track to fulfil the Paris agreement, global population growth, the dilemma of phasing out fossil fuels for exporters like Saudi Arabia or who will bear the costs of closing down coal-fired power stations early (before their economic expiration date)). It’s unclear to me if such topics are untouchable for political reasons or if they were just outside of scope of the commission and the report. Some other things I learned at the seminar was:

  • One of the speakers, André Månberger, (Lund University) seemed like an interesting person to keep track of.
  • There is a Mistra Geopolitics research program (André is part of it). I’m sure that the research output from that program is of interest to me.
  • US president and environmentalist(?) Jimmy Carter said (in response to the oil crises of the 1970’s) that ”you can’t embargo the sun”.

This was not a Great Thunberg-approved event. The basic set-up was ”with the Paris agreement as a backdrop, here are some thoughts about the geopolitical consequences of a global transition from non-renewable to renewable energy”. While those thoughts were in fact really interesting, the elephant in the room is that we aren’t really on track to transition to renewables nor to fulfil the Paris agreement. According to Johan Rockström and colleagues and their ”Global Carbon Law”, we need to reduce global CO2 emissions by 50% per decade between 2020 and 2050 to fulfil the Paris agreement. That is equivalent to annual reductions of 7% per year for the next 30 years. So what currently actually happens (besides verbal promises) is very far away from what needs to happen.

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