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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


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DEI Seminar Series: Tackling global warming after coronavirus: some lessons of history

26th August 2020, 13:00 to 14:00, Online via Zoom, Dr Simon Pirani, Oxford Energy Institute

This seminar is free to attend and open to all. To register visit EventBrite.

Global fossil fuel consumption has risen by about two-thirds since the 1992 climate talks at Rio, where governments agreed it needed to be cut. It is falling sharply this year, due to the coronavirus epidemic, but there is every possibility that much of it will return with a vengeance, as and when the economy recovers.

Studying the history of global consumption, and in particular its remorseless rise since the mid twentieth century, can help us to understand the future transition away from fossil fuels. In this talk, Simon Pirani will argue for a focus on technological systems (such as electricity networks, urban built environments and transport systems, and industrial and agricultural systems), the social and economic systems in which they are embedded, and the interactions between these. It is the expansion of these systems, above all, that has driven consumption growth; reducing consumption will involve transforming these systems.

Simon Pirani is author of Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption (London: Pluto Press, 2018). He is Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where he has worked since 2007, writing about the natural gas sector in Russia, Ukraine, central Asia and the Caspian. Before that, Simon wrote about Russia and Ukraine as a historian and journalist.

His books include The Russian Revolution in Retreat: Soviet workers and the new communist elite 1920-24 (Routledge, 2008) and Change in Putin’s Russia: Power, Money and People (Pluto, 2010).

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