WIT Press

Pathways To An Oil-constrained Future: Analogies With Climate Change Mitigation And Adaptation


Free (open access)





Page Range

253 - 265




255 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


R. J. Brewster


The global production of oil is predicted to have reached a peak in the first decade of this century and will gradually decline, while demand outstrips the discovery and exploitation of new oil sources. This paper investigates issues of adapting urban development to an oil-constrained future, exploring the analogy between oil depletion and climate change. These issues are two of the global wicked problems this century; however, oil depletion is likely to have greater certainty in its predicted impacts. The terminology of climate change mitigation and adaptation is modified to assess its application to oil depletion actions, referring to recent policy research by Hirsch et al on oil supply mitigation as a case study. The categorisation of the proposed administrative measures and physical options is analysed using a non-metric ordinal scale, to indicate how closely they align with the proposed mitigation and adaptation definitions. It is concluded that while there is some blurring between the categories (in a similar way to global warming actions); the modified terminology is a useful way to categorise and analyse oil depletion actions. Current oil strategies are geared to mitigation actions, but adaptive measures will become much more important in the longer term future as oil supply becomes constrained.


climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation, global problem, oil depletion, Peak Oil, sustainable urban development