What energy levels can the Earth sustain?
Several official reports on future global primary energy production and use develop scenarios which suggest that the high energy growth rates of the 20th century will continue unabated until 2050 and even beyond. In this paper we examine whether any combination of fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources can deliver such levels of primary energy--around 1000Â EJ in 2050. We find that too much emphasis has been placed on whether or not reserves in the case of fossil and nuclear energy, or technical potential in the case of renewable energy, can support the levels of energy use forecast. In contrast, our analysis stresses the crucial importance of the interaction of technical potentials for annual production with environmental factors, social, political, and economic concerns and limited time frames for implementation, in heavily constraining the real energy options for the future. Together, these constraints suggest that future energy consumption will be significantly lower than the present level.
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