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Agenda-Setting Foresight

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Title: The Invention Gap
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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The Invention Gap

There are many contested narratives on climate action. In ‘we have the solutions’, the challenge is to create policy signals in order to give markets confidence, redirect finance and scale existing technologies. The story goes that innovation and exponential growth will follow.

Peter Kingsley argues that this is critical, but not sufficient. There is an ‘invention gap’ that must be filled to hedge against the extreme scenarios surrounding runaway global heating, policy failures and complacency about steep cuts in emissions. The gap is systemic and strategic, cutting across all industry sectors and spanning global governance, policy, regulation, economics and corporate stewardship.

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Title: A Move to Wartime Footing
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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A Move to Wartime Footing

Climate disruption as a result of rising temperatures is already at the outer edge of the worst-case scientific projections. Simon Tilford argues that we could be approaching a ‘tipping point’, when governments will be forced to take urgent action. A wartime scenario is perhaps the closest analogy the kind of environment into which we might be heading. Once on a war footing, governments direct rather than set the rules of the game. In this scenario, the implications for firms and investors would be far-reaching.

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Title: The Big Adjustment
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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The Big Adjustment

We do not have 30 years to reach net zero. Committed emissions of carbon dioxide already take us close to 2 degrees. The transition will have to be squeezed into less time and will hence be more disruptive than commonly assumed, argues Simon Tilford. It implies a bigger role for government and less globalisation, especially of capital but also of trade; a retreat into ‘Walled Gardens’.

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Briefing

Carbon Pricing Is No Panacea

Carbon pricing is a powerful tool for reducing emissions where there are existing and comparably priced alternatives. However, it is not the answer to a world faced with an Invention Gap as well as the need to reduce the price of new technologies as rapidly as possible.

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Europe After Merkel: exposed and ill-prepared

Angela Merkel leaves behind a Europe highly dependent on globalisation and multilateralism at a time when these are in retreat. Could September’s election be a catalyst for change in Germany, and therefore Europe? Or will it be business-as-usual? If so, Europe will struggle to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of Walled Gardens scenarios, let alone Dark Ages.

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Solar Geoengineering: new momentum

In response to what some have referred to as the ‘apocalyptic’ climatic events of 2021 there is growing momentum behind solar geoengineering. Large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate is now a possibility, from refreezing the Arctic to continent-scale ‘weather modification’ in China.

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The Limitations of Science

In 2018, we wrote about the risks associated with the IPCC culture of slow, conservative, consensus-based science and why policymakers cannot wait for all evidence before acting. It is now clear that climate models have underestimated the risks of extreme weather.

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Recent

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Title: The ‘Inevitability’ of a Rising China
Approx. Reading Time: 9 minutes
Author: George Magnus

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The ‘Inevitability’ of a Rising China

China could become the world’s largest economy as early as 2027. However, as George Magnus argues, size is not everything. Having the biggest economy might not amount to much more than bragging rights if China gets caught in the ‘middle-income’ trap, which the direction of political travel strongly suggests it will.

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Title: Radical Innovation
Approx. Reading Time: 17 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Radical Innovation

What if machines can mimic human creativity and how ideas are formed in the biological networks of the brain, generating novel, patentable inventions? Ideas and inventions traded in open global marketplaces. Production localised to social and environmental benefits, with minimal costs. Peter Kingsley explores how state-of-the-art machine-aided innovation will transform everything from asset ownership, to globalisation and patent law.

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Long Read Overview

Title: Youth Activism: the older generation ignores it at its peril
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Thierry Malleret

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Youth Activism: the older generation ignores it at its peril

Ignore the younger generation’s cultural values and attitudes towards the environment and societal inequality at your peril, argues Thierry Malleret . Disillusioned and anxious, ‘generation activist’, powered by social media, will shape prospects for all political parties, industry sectors and companies. Understanding how their aspirations and imagined futures differ radically from those of the ruling Boomers and Generation Xers may itself trigger abrupt cultural change.

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Title: Bitcoin’s a Bit Player, But Digital Currencies Are Coming
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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Bitcoin’s a Bit Player, But Digital Currencies Are Coming

Bitcoin is not about to challenge established currencies and is a poor store of value to boot. However, central banks are right to worry about tech giants such as Amazon or Facebook issuing their own private digital currencies. They are all but certain to preempt this by introducing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and obstructing the spread of private ones.

Simon Tilford argues that while CBDCs will have various advantages, they will also concentrate unprecedented power in the hands of central banks (and by extension states). While democracies should be able to ensure accountability and privacy, the introduction of a Chinese CBDC will further hinder attempts to limit the power of the Chinese authorities.

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Briefing

Thresholds and Tipping Points

The expression tipping point has momentum, spreading from the margins of IPCC reports in 2018 to mainstream politics, media and finance. Peter Kingsley argues that beyond estimating when fragile systems may transition from one ‘state’ to another, the challenge is to develop options that create resilience in extreme scenarios.

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Briefing

On Foresight: speed and time

Extreme weather around the world, a foretaste of things to come, has sent shockwaves through the scientific, political and financial communities. Suddenly, dangerous global warming is no longer an abstract and distant threat, but a real and up-close peril. Time is short. Few are ready for the possible fundamental shocks ahead.

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Briefing

Perils of Ignoring Long Term Risk

Long-term debt remains extraordinarily cheap, driven by a simple extrapolation of near-term inflation expectations rather than by any assessment of long-term macroeconomic and investment risk. Investors face getting caught out if and when there is a sudden shift in perceptions about the future.

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Briefing

Innovation as Risk

One of the many lessons emerging from Covid-19 vaccine development is that invention, system-wide innovation and mass-scale transformation are possible. Waves of investment to meet the threats of global warming may also drive breakthroughs. Innovation will become a primary source of risk.

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Briefing

Scenario: A Wuhan Lab Leak with Happy Ending

A lab-leak in Wuhan is not the most likely cause of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet uncertainty remains. Mat Burrows explores a ‘what if’ scenario in which concealment is China’s primary mistake. In the story, China may learn lessons and so too might the rest of the international community.

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Briefing

Electrify Everything, Locally

Activist pressure on the major oil and gas companies dominates energy headlines. What is missing from much analysis is the potential to cut emissions and reduce overall demand by electrifying everything, locally, fast.

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Multinational Corporations: endgames?

The age of the conventional multinational corporation may be in long-term decline, as the battle between states and corporate over power, control and legitimacy of the hybrid digital and analogue worlds gains momentum.

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Developed Countries Risk Generational Conflict

Countries that flourish will be those whose policies are driven by the needs of all generations, not just older cohorts. Those that fail to do this risk weak economic growth and inter-generational conflict. Much of Europe is in the latter camp. The US could fare better.

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Briefing

Emerging Policy Shocks

There is an ‘invention gap’ in meeting net-zero targets by 2050. Many inventions have yet to be made to achieve current ambitions. Until system-wide innovative breakthroughs emerge in all sectors, policymakers have few options but to take extreme action, bringing forward all possible interventions to lower the systemic risks of global warming and biosphere failure.

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Briefing

Asymmetric Threats and Opportunities

Strategic risk managers have long grappled with complexity and radical uncertainty, with the growing realisation that speed compounds them both. The new threat is asymmetry, in everything from breakthrough technology, to military security and global warming. Foresight is a primary source of strategic advantage.

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Briefing

The End of Dollar Dominance?

The Covid-19 crisis and its aftermath has highlighted the centrality of the dollar to the global financial system, reinforcing Chinese and European resentment at this dominance and their determination to challenge it. Change will eventually come, but it could be the US itself that calls time on the dollar age.

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Briefing

Pervasive Drones: mass destruction?

As drones are increasingly pervasive in fields from photography to transport and agriculture, darker uses are also emerging. The integration of multiple weapons systems using autonomous drone networks may be a greater threat than conventional nuclear attacks.

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