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Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 05:51 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 05:51 | SYDNEY

Stories to watch in 2010

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5 January 2010 10:06

It's hard to improve on Walter Russell Mead's top 10 list — I particularly like his focus on 'the crisis in global governance'. That's a really critical issue I hope to follow on The Interpreter this year and hopefully do some longer-form writing about. But Mead's list is largely concerned with geopolitics, so let me suggest a few additions that take in technological factors.

One of the emerging good news stories of the last decade has been the development of commercially viable alternatives to the use of fossil fuels in road transportation. Just yesterday I noted that no less than 10 new plug-in electric cars are hitting the market this year. True, electric cars, trucks and bikes are still largely an expensive niche product, and 2010 will only be one more year in a generational transition. But this year I'll be looking out for stories about further technological breakthroughs and commercialisation of this technology.

With 61% of worldwide oil consumption devoted to transport, the electrification of road transport will change the energy mix for oil importers and could force some painful changes to oil exporting countries, who may see their geopolitical influence wane. Electric cars will also reduce global C02 emissions and improve urban environments, with important health benefits, particularly in developing countries.

A second and related technology issue concerns energy. As Peter McCawley noted late last year in relation to Copenhagen, when countries get together to negotiate about climate change they are really talking to each other about energy —more specifcally, they are talking about the cheapest and cleanest ways to generate it. At the moment, 'clean' and 'cheap' are in tension. But as clean energy gets cheaper, the divisions between the developed and developing worlds that were so evident in Copenhagen will narrow.

Needless to say, good policy is needed to create the incentives for clean energy technology to flourish.

Photo by Flickr user ttstam, used under a Creative Commons license.

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