Background information

On this page:

Climate Change

The change in global temperature (data compiled by the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, and the UK Met. Office Hadley Centre) - see

global temperature chart

The Oil Crunch

Cheap oil is fundamental to the western way of life - it is what makes our modern lifestyles possible. A litre of oil contains energy equivalent to someone working hard physically for about 5 weeks. So any time you go to a garage and fill your tank with 40 litres of petrol, you are putting into that car energy equivalent to about four years hard human manual labour - all for less than 100. Many experts now argue that we are currently entering the end of the age of cheap oil, so-called 'peak oil' - the point at which world oil production enters a stage of terminal irreversible decline.

In October 2007, a new study by the Energy Watch Group predicted a steep decline in oil production, bringing the risk of war and unrest - in particular:
  • oil output peaked in 2006 and will fall by several percent per year
  • a decline in gas, coal and uranium also predicted

The oil price

The recent rapid rise has occurred because output has not kept up with demand. The UK Government revised its price forecast upwards at the start of 2008, but the actual price soon rose above even the "high high" scenario forecast.
oil price chart

See also the analysis on

Oil price data from:
  • Annual Statistical Review (to 2007)
  • (since 2007)

UK Government forecast from:

Alternative sources of energy:
We cannot assume that alternative sources of energy will appear as oil declines. Intensive efforts for decades have not come up with anything as cheap as fossil fuels. Some put their faith in tar sands - there are very large reserves of these in Canada and elsewhere - but there are many problems that limit the amount that can be extracted and the rate of extraction - see