July 21, 2008

Energy use to rival greenhouse gases

Energy allows organized systems to exist.

Stars and galaxies use 0.0001 to 0.01 Watts per kilogram of energy to maintain their form. Plants like grass and sugarcane require 0.05 W/kg to live. Hunter-gatherers use about 1 W/kg and primitive farmers, 10 W/kg. An organized society requires energy. On average, humans in the world today use 50W/kg, and in the US, 250 W/kg. The average 40 year old American white man weighs 183 lb, which corresponds to a power consumption of 20 kilowatts. Putting this in everyday terms, on an energy basis today's American society represents either one pre-1967 VW bug running at full power, or about 20 toasters, waffle irons and/or Makita cut-off saws, running full on all the time, for each one of us.

Here's the energy flow through the U. S. today.

Civilization needs energy, and energy use worldwide is compounding at 2% annually (1% per year in the developed world, 5% per year in the developing). There is a point where the climate will change simply because of the amount of energy we are using. Already now the streets of Tokyo are 4 F warmer than they would be otherwise due to energy use. By the end of the century the use of non-solar energy will compete with sunlight to the degree that it will noticeably warm the average surface temperature of the planet -- on top of whatever warming greenhouse gases may be giving. Compounding energy at 2% per year, the IPCC climate 'tipping point' of a 3.5 F increase will be reached by use of non-solar energy alone in about 280 years.



At July 23, 2008 4:43 PM , Blogger rigtenzin said...

This post is one of the reasons I like your blog. You provide reminders of why it's necessary to consume less.

I need reminders. I'm constantly looking for ways to improve, but posts like this serve as motivation to do more.


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