Scenarios help us to understand how the world and its energy systems could change over the coming decades.
Their purpose is to challenge our thinking, so that we can make better business decisions and meet our commitments to others. It is in this spirit that we offer them as a contribution to public debate.
We have produced Shell Scenarios since the 1970s. They have helped us anticipate and adapt to momentous events like the oil shocks of the 1970s, the collapse of communist Europe in 1989, the surge in world energy demand and the threat of climate change.
Prepared for an oil shock
Arab oil-producing countries imposed an oil embargo on Western governments in October 1973 – a response to US support for Israel in the Yom Kippur war. Within weeks, the price of crude oil soared from around $2.50 a barrel to $11. The high price restricted economic activity in the West, causing a slump in the stock market and a rise in unemployment.
Shell’s scenarios work had allowed it to foresee and, to some extent, prepare for this shock. We were able to recover more quickly than our competitors.
A vision of post-apartheid South Africa
Following the official end to apartheid in South Africa, Shell’s approach to scenarios inspired a series of meetings by politicians, business leaders, trade unionists, academics and community activists to consider the country’s future. Supported by the Shell’s Scenarios team, they devised four plausible scenarios for the country from 1992-2002. The project contributed to a common vocabulary and mutual understanding.
Responding to AIDS
While the number of new cases of HIV and AIDS may be falling in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.8 million people were newly infected in this region in 2009 alone. The United Nations drew on Shell’s approach to scenarios to devise three versions of the future that explored the consequences of different government actions. These scenarios helped to guide the leaders’ response to the epidemic and to work out which response to the crisis would create the best outcome for Africa, Africans and the rest of the world by 2025.
The number of people on our planet is rising. Our demands will place increased pressure on supplies of energy, water and food. The relationship between these resources seems simple: water is needed to produce most forms of energy; energy is required to treat and transport water, and food production relies on water and energy. It is, however, more complex. Shell has used scenarios to help explore the future dynamics of these vital resources.
Our latest look at the future, New Lens Scenarios, was published in 2013. Below are some of its predecessors, which you are able to download here, in which we assess the futures that may lie ahead.