How fossil fuel use became unsustainable, and what society can do about it

The seminar will be on 26 March at 4-5pm in MW807

The global level of fossil fuel consumption continues to rise, despite ever-more-insistent claims that we are moving to a post-fossil-fuel era. The presentation will include a historical overview of the period since 1950 that is characterised by a “great acceleration” of human impacts on the natural world. It will look at the technological systems that consume fossil fuels, and the social and economic systems in which they are embedded. Since the 1980s, governments have acknowledged the need to curb consumption, but overseen steep increases: what can society as a whole do about this most urgent crisis?


Biography: Simon Pirani is Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and author of Burning Up: a global history of fossil fuel consumption (Pluto Press, August 2018). His previous publications as a historian include The Russian Revolution in Retreat (Routledge, 2008) and Change in Putin’s Russia: Power, Money and People (Pluto Press, 2010).