Areas of Concern
Energy and Scale
Scale Relevant Solutions to the Energy Problem
How is Energy Use a Scale Problem?
Civilization’s current reliance on fossil fuels is a scale problem from three perspectives:
Because fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, their continued use is by definition unsustainable. Of more immediate concern is the fact that their emissions are overwhelming various ecosystems’ capacities to absorb them, resulting in elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In turn, these atmospheric concentrations are contributing to climate change, thereby posing a serious threat to human well-being.
In addition, our civilization has come to rely on the abundant energy provided by fossil fuels. Use of such large amounts of energy is not compatible with maintaining critical ecosystem functions. Due to the physical limitations of alternative energy sources, it is unlikely that we can sustain the current level of energy use, and even less likely that we can increase overall energy supply.
Furthermore, from a sustainable scale perspective, such high levels of energy use may not be desirable (see
Energy as a
What Scale Relevant Solutions to the Energy Problem are Required?
Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and making a transition to renewable alternatives are both essential to ensuring sustainable energy supplies. Changes are needed not only in our energy sources, but also what we use it for. Encouraging increased energy efficiency is crucial, but even more critical is to conserve energy, and to ensure our global energy regime does not exceed sustainable scale (see
Scale Relevant Solutions
What Scale Relevant Lessons Should We Take From the Energy Problem?
Energy is such a central aspect of human civilization that we have to pay much more attention to the full life-cycle analyses of any energy system we use. Fossil fuels were abundant and relatively cheap to extract 100 years ago. But their combustion has resulted in undesirable changes in one of the most fundamental and important life support systems on the planet – global climate patterns. As we make a transition to alternative energy sources, careful analyses of ecosystem impacts are needed. Reviewing some basic assumptions about energy, human well being and social justice is also in order (see
Energy Problems: A Primer
For some basic facts concerning the energy problems see
Energy: A Summary
Additional Information on Energy
Selected Energy Readings
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