|Radcliffe, Nottinghamshire, at the height of the Industrial Revolution|
Geology at the centre of energy transitions
So the most obvious relationship between geoscience and energy transitions is the distribution of resources, their extent, distribution and accessibility. In the case of coal, its distribution has governed past industrialisation, and to some extent the accumulation of human wealth and power. The nations of the industrial revolution are still amongst the most powerful in the world.
Resource distribution, extent and accessibility
The next transition to renewables
Slow transition to renewables
|Coal mine in Dhanbad, India |
Human energy systems - the economies that are built around coal, oil and gas – contain inertia that slows down change. They also operate in similar ways to the physical science feedbacks and tipping points of the natural climate system, and many other natural systems and cycles. There are serendipitous events that lead to the increased use of fossil fuels, and positive feedbacks that allow fuels to rapidly grow. The industrial revolution has many examples – like the introduction of coal/steam powered pumps that allowed coal mining to go deeper below the water table, so that more coal could be mined. Regulation and policy matter too – and politics. So to be able to understand energy transitions properly, it’s not just technology that matters – so does an understanding of human systems.
Understanding energy transitions properly
What role do geologists play?
|Wind turbines at Holderness|
If you are interested in the wider geology – energy – climate nexus read my new book: https://www.elsevier.com/books/energy-and-climate-change/stephenson/978-0-12-812021-7
Prof Mike Stephenson is the Director of Science and Technology at the BGS.