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Advancing Sustainability in a Competitive World Peter Willis South African Director University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. Our Exuberant Journey to Here. The Population Take-Off. X 3,5 in 100 years. More ‘Stuff’ per Person. X 10 in 100 years. The Turning Point?.

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Advancing Sustainability in a Competitive World

Peter Willis

South African Director

University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership

The Population Take-Off

X 3,5 in 100 years

More ‘Stuff’ per Person

X 10 in 100 years

The Turning Point?

In 1712, Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine was deployed to pump water from flooded mines in Dudley, England… by turning heat into motion.

“Anyone who believes continuous growth is possible on a finite Earth is either a madman or an economist.”

Kenneth Boulding (Economist)

A Rather Dry Planet

All water


& Ice

Oceans: 96.5%



Fresh water: 0.76%

Drinking water: c.0.1%

Spheres showing:(1) All water (sphere over western U.S., 860 miles in diameter) (2) Fresh liquid water in the ground, lakes, swamps, and rivers (sphere over Kentucky, 169.5 miles in diameter), and (3) Fresh-water lakes and rivers (sphere over Georgia, 34.9 miles in diameter). Credit: Dr Adam Nieman

SA Portion of River Basin








11 319

1 068

19 502

1 840


11 906

2 450

18 790

3 867


1 122


1 933



1 165


2 009


WCI values:

0 – 100 = Water security

100 – 500 = Water sufficiency

500 – 1 000 = Occasional, seasonal water stress

1 000 – 2 000 = Frequent water stress; seasonally severe

> 2 000 = “Beyond the water barrier” - chronic water stress

“Water Crowding Index”

Water Crowding Index (WCI) = Number of people per million cubic metres of water – (South African catchment portion)

Source: Dr Peter Ashton, CSIR 2010

1. Dramatic increase in urban sector demand for water in all basins

2. Large increase in power sector demand for water in the Orange-

Senqu and Limpopo basins

3. Increased water demands from rural and mining sectors in

Limpopo basin

Anticipated % Increase in Water Needs by Sector - 2025


& Other Resources

Coal Crude Oil Biomass

Natural Gas Hydro Other

Nuclear Renewables

Crude Oil




2,299 Mtoe

The Oil Dependency of Transport

6%Crude Oil



93%Crude Oil

Power Generation

4,605 Mtoe

Source: IEA Key Energy Statistics & WEO 2010 (data for 2008)

The flame in the darkness
“The Flame in the Darkness”

“The consumption of the world’s accessible oil endowment

will occur over a two-century span of human history”

M. King Hubbert – c. 1955

The End of Easy Oil

IEA via The Guardian,2009


Our Very Own, First Ever

Global Emergency

Up to c.1850


CO2 & other gases

Sudden Non-Linear Changes

Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 2012 (left) and July 12 (right). Satellites showed that on July 8, about 40% of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97% of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12.

A Drier (and Wetter) Future

US National Center for Atmospheric Research:“Drought Under Global Warming – A Review” Oct 2010

Consequences are likely to be very serious

High probability of serious water, food, ecosystem and extreme weather effects

Source: IPCC 3rd Assessment Report. 2007.

Consequences (cont.)






Climate change exacerbates existing threats

and generates new ones

Number of people affected by climate-related disasters

Developing countries

Developed countries

No. of people affected (millions)

Source: UNEP GEO-4 report





What are our Options?

  • Only three options available to us:

  • Mitigate

    • Avoid the unmanageable

  • Adapt

    • Manage the unavoidable

  • Suffer

    • Put up with the unavoidable

Why +2˚C threshold is so important

Cost to Society






How can we Mitigate?

Moderate population growth

Reduce demand (i.e. quantitative growth)

Maximise energy efficiency

Lower carbon intensity of energy supply

Implications for Labour Law?

  • The End of Growth?

  • Formal employment will probably suffer most.

  • BUT…

  • There will be LOTS to do!

  • Co-operatives?

  • Maximization of profit may be replaced by optimization of resilience.

Thank You

[email protected]