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16 June 2015

Economic development is a voracious consumer of energy

Can a sustainable balance be struck between demand for energy resources and environmental protection?

Published in the 1970s, “The Limits to Growth” was a book which stated clearly that within a short space of time all the key resources for life on the planet would be exhausted.

The vision of an Earth decimated by a catastrophic fate has long influenced the collective imagination: a world where a lost people struggle for survival in cave dwellings and huts built on stilts, while tending meagre fires.

Such alarmism, the result of some disturbing indicators, not only stimulated creative literature and cinema, which helped to open our eyes about the consequences of waste; it also raised our consciousness about the energy resources of the planet.

It has only taken a short time to go from excessive use of aerosol sprays, resulting in the “first hole in the ozone layer” to the concept of “sustainability”, which everyone recognizes today as a fundamental factor in their ethical, social and environmental behaviour. The situation, however, is still critical.

Indeed, even while consumption is carefully monitored, greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for at least two thirds of climate change and with population growth rising fast, consumption will rise accordingly. It is for this reason that the international objective is to bring CO2 emissions to a concentration limit in the atmosphere of below 450 parts per million. This is the so-called “450 Scenario”.

This remains a very challenging goal, which is tied to a overall cut in greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. a reduction of 50% over the next four decades. According to some observers, if developed countries cannot achieve this, then the consequences will be dire. On December 1st, there will be an international meeting in Paris about energy and this will be the subject under discussion.


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