Future skills: the Net Zero scenario

A world in abundance, where its inhabitants will still have to do without in order to save the planet. Humanities overall goal is carbon neutrality. This is a future scenario from the GDI study "Future Skills".
13 August, 2020 by
Future Skills: Das Netto-Null-Szenario
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

The following text is based on an extract from the study "Future Skills", which you can obtain from our website.

What will the year 2050 look like? What will change? What challenges must be met? The Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute's study "Future Skills" outlines several possible future scenarios for 2050 and describes what people will have to be able to do in the future.

The Net Zero scenario describes a world of abundance. Most people do not lack anything materially. The complexity of society is intentionally reduced, however. In this world, this appears to be the only way to deal with environmental problems, in particular with climate change, but also with dwindling biodiversity. Currently existing freedoms, in particular with regard to consumption, are therefore restricted in this future. These restrictions are based on international agreements that are interpreted differently in individual countries. While some favour a participatory approach, others are more authoritarian.

The Net Zero world in 2050 is similar to the Collapse scenario in many respects. The international flow of goods has been significantly reduced; many amenities from 2020 no longer exist. However, while this was the result of factual constraints in the Collapse scenario, it is a conscious decision by society in the Net Zero scenario. The world has become more local and decentralised overall. People travel by bicycle or public transport. “Home offices”, “co-working spaces” and teleconferences have replaced the long distance commute to the office. Flights are rare and motorised individual traffic likewise only continues to exist on a small scale. Traffic is electrified. The cars that still exist are shared.

Energy is generated primarily from the sun and from wind. Neighbourhoods share solar and photovoltaic panels. A smart network coordinates the energy generated by them. In case of excess production, the energy is used to produce hydrogen or is stored in neighbourhood batteries. If there is a shortage, all fully loaded devices – from e-bikes to computers and drones – are tapped and also the hydrogen is retransformed into energy. Fossil fuels such as oil are only still extracted in small quantities; however, they are no longer burned in motors but only used for important things, e.g. to manufacture medicines.

The world in the Net Zero scenario must reduce CO2 emissions to zero. What skills are needed in this possible future?

Emotional stability & practical skills
Extreme weather occurs much more frequently. This means being able to deal with stress is important. If infrastructures such as heating or fresh water supply fail, survival skills help to weather the crisis in the short term. Thanks to mechanical skills people can repair damage caused by severe weather themselves. Gardening skills enable them to grow food for personal consumption in an emergency.

Understanding of problems & knowledge processing
Discussing measures against climate change requires a deeper understanding of the problem. This includes environmental and economic knowledge. What is the connection between economic growth and emissions? What can be regulated via the price? What will happen when the last glaciers vanish from the Alps? To ensure that their knowledge is up to date, people must be able to process complex and overabundant information, understand statistics, comprehend scientific approaches and assess the reliability of information in the media.

Shared responsibility towards future generations
The mere understanding of the problem does not do much good. What is also required is a readiness to act for the benefits of the (future) community, even if this merely means consuming less. It is necessary to think in the longer term, i.e. to imagine what the world will be like in 100 or 200 years, and to feel responsible towards the future generations that will be alive then. And ultimately, trust is required that other people will share this problem awareness and the readiness to consume less themselves.

Besides the Net Zero scenario, there are other scenarios that prepare us for various possible futures. What else do we possibly have to be able to do in the future? Download "Future Skills" for free!

Future Skills Study

Study, 2020 (free download)

Languages: German, English, French
Format: PDF
Commissioned by: Jacobs Foundation

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