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Human consumption of energy (1900 to 2020)

Comments by Ikonoclast – RWER blogs, 8 June 2021

What really counts is the amount of oil, coal and gas we are burning and thus how much CO2 we are releasing into the atmosphere. The benign Holocene era is ending. Scientists have declared we have already entered a new era, the Anthropocene. The earth’s climate, and thus weather patterns, of the benign (for humans at least) Holocene era were a resource for human civilization.

It is a common mistake, and one I long made, to pay attention only to primary input resources. Thus we were obsess- ed about peak oil, peak coal and peak gas, imagining that the supply of these primary input resources would be the constraint for our global civilization, civilization being so energy dependent. However, it turns out that the primary constraint on civilization involves not our inputs but our wastes. Our wastes wreck ecological, biosphere and geo- sphere systems.

Climate change is the best case in point of the above (though not the only case). Climate change entails the melting of ice caps and glaciers, raises sea levels, raises temperatures, exacerbates both floods and droughts, and increases the number and severity of tropical storms, generating wilder swings between the opposites, as well as periods in which a regional climate remains stuck longer in one phase. It changes growing seasons thus affecting food production.

It is extremely troubling that coal, oil and gas still contribute so much to our energy mix. To save the world from catastrophic climate change we should have already reduced our use to the point that we could reach zero use by 2030. We have already used up almost all of our carbon budget [1,2].

From link [2];

“ After doing the sums, humanity has only 95 billion of the original 1000 billion tonnes left to spend on carbon dioxide emissions. To put that in perspective, globally humans emit 10 billion tonnes of carbon every year.

“ That means that in less than 10 years, without dramatic action, humanity will have spent all of its remaining 2-degree budget. At that point, the chances of holding warming to 2 degrees will drop below 2/3, and we might as well flip a coin to estimate whether the climate will exceed boundaries maintained for over a million years.” (ANU, 6 May 2019).

That puts us at exceeding our carbon budget by 2029. And we are still doing nothing substantive to stop this. Indeed, CO2 emissions are still rising. When will people realize the emergency has already started?

Source: RWER blogs, 8 June 2021


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