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Review of 2022 Predictions
This is the time of year when we look back on the predictions that we made twelve months ago and evaluate how we did. So, here goes.
Our first post at this site, 2022: A Net Zero Future, was on January 1st, 2022. In it I outlined what the goals of the site were. I also made some predictions for the coming year with regard to climate change, and how business and industry could provide badly needed leadership.
The were give overall predictions.
1. COP26, Government Failure and Industry Leadership
I first looked at the response of government, business and industry to climate change. I said,
Companies and businesses will increasingly lead the response to climate change — not because they want to “do good”, but because they want to be commercially successful.
A basis for this prediction was that national governments and international bodies have failed to provide climate change leadership, as shown in the following chart. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has steadily increased since the year 1960. Overlaid on the chart are the dates of the successive COPs (Conferences of the Parties) and IPCC reports.
Fast forward a year, and nothing has changed. We have had one more COP (COP27 in Egypt) but the CO2 concentration continues its inexorable rise. Our posts to do with COP27 included,
With regard to business providing leadership, there are some indications that this is happening. The rapid growth in the number of electric vehicles is evidence of such a change. The large number of publications from energy companies to do with the “hydrogen economy” are another indicator. So, I would rate this prediction as being reasonably accurate.
2. The Return of Peak Oil
At the start of the year I wrote,
Energy will become more expensive and supplies more erratic.
At the start of the year Brent was around $79 per barrel. There was a surge between February and June, but the price is now at $83. Natural gas prices have gone from $3.4 to $8.2 per million Btu. It is difficult to know how prices would have changed had Russia not chosen to invade Ukraine. However, I would say that I got this one about right.
3. Resource Availability
The prediction was,
Supplies of materials critical to climate change technology will become erratic or limited due to international tension and competition.
In the year 2022 we witnessed high inflation for all resources, and continued problems with supply chains and just-in-time management strategies. Once more, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an unexpected factor, along with continued COVID-19 problems.
We did not see a supply chain crisis with regard to materials such as lithium, although spot shortages are an issue. I would say that this prediction was a miss, but I expect that it will factor into future forecasts.
4. Oil Companies
My prediction was,
Oil companies will invest in the production and distribution of green hydrogen for both transportation and energy storage.
The executives at the major oil companies recognize that they need to develop new sources of energy that can replace the income from declining oil and gas reserves. They further recognize that hydrogen (either blue or green) has a lot of potential.
Based on the number of articles and papers in professional publications and at meetings, I would say that this company was partially correct. However, none of the oil companies seem to have overcome the fact that produced hydrogen as a fuel is expensive with respect to crude oil.
I would say that this prediction was partially correct.
The final prediction was more of a hope than a hard forecast as to what was going to happen. I said,
Climate activists will spend more time working with industrial managers and engineers developing realistic responses to the predicaments that we face.
This has not been the case. Climate activists continue to blame the corporate culture, and the oil companies in particular, for many our woes.
This prediction was not correct.
Overall I would say that the results were:
What We Did Not Anticipate
In addition to evaluating how well we predicted the year 2022, it is useful to consider those events that we did not anticipate at all. Here are three items that fall into that category.
A Tipping Point
In October I presented a paper at the Hazards32 conference in England. Its title was The Process Safety Professional in a Net Zero World. During the course of the presentation I suggested that the year 2022 was something of a psychological tipping point. For many people climate change became all to real: droughts in China, floods in Pakistan, heat waves in Europe, wild fires in the U.S. and Canada — the list seemed to be endless.
Climate change moved from something a person reads about, to something that they experience.
OSHA and Process Safety Management
In August 2022 the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an update to their process safety management standard. This announcement was a surprise. Given the process safety background of this site, we decided to devote a high percentage of our time to evaluating the meaning and impact of the proposed updates.
A summary of the blog posts that we have written on this topic is provided here.
The SEC Climate Rule
In March 2022 the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its proposed Climate-disclosure rule. This rule, if enacted, will require public companies in the U.S. to:
Report on their greenhouse gas emissions,
Report on their programs to reduce those emissions, and
Identify the financial risks that they face due to a changing climate.
Although the SEC had been discussing this type of rule for many years, its release changed the manner in which companies think about climate change. Now, for the first time, there is a proposed regulation. Moreover, this change was not unique to the United States. Many other nations have not only proposed similar rules — they are well ahead of the U.S.
Here at this site we decided to develop an understanding of this proposed rule. Doing so was a challenge. The proposed rule is lengthy (490 pages), dense, and makes many references to equally long and dense standards and rules from other nations. We started writing a book on the topic — details of the manuscript in its current form are available at The SEC Climate Rule.
Whether the SEC Climate-disclosure rule moves forward is in doubt. The new Congress seems to be philosophically opposed to climate change programs on principle. However, climate change is such a clear and present danger, it is possible that Congress will allow some form of the rule to move forward.
Tomorrow we will stick our chin out one more time, and make forecasts for the coming year.
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