Leading up to my Grand Challenge, I have been considering how the rising population is putting pressure on the world’s energy needs. Rapid human population growth is increasingly being recognised as a major force acting on our planet and a huge challenge for our future security.
It is ‘beyond dispute’ that the current human population size and growth rate is unsustainable (Holdren and Ehrlich, 1974: 288).
Have a look at a live World Population Clock to see the estimated global population at this minute. It’s interesting watching that number steadily increase!
An estimated 80% of the energy people use for transport, to heat their homes, and to power gadgets comes from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas (Friday, 2013). It is worrying how much we rely on resources which are finite and damaging to humans and ecosystems.
The problem is that our infrastructure and society is completely orientated around using fossil fuels. Transitioning society from reliance on them to low-carbon alternatives will require rapid technological advancement, huge investment, and enthusiasm from politicians, companies and citizens (Friday, 2013). This transition is unlikely to occur naturally before fossil fuel levels become critically low, at which point the time won’t be available for the infrastructure and technology to orientate towards using renewables. That is why renewables must be promoted at every opportunity through government subsidies and positive publicity.
A cultural attitude shift is essential and overdue. People need to view renewables as necessary to continue the way of life which we have become accustomed to; not a waste of investment or a blot on the landscape.
I would like to explore some of the issues discussed here and more in the coming week: how can individuals and companies be encouraged to invest in renewable technology? And what are the advantages and disadvantages to various types of technology? How far away is the UK from being 100% reliant on renewables? Also, what is likely to happen to global population in the future?
But here is my simple answer to the entry title:
How can we meet the energy needs of a growing population?
Here is a more detailed blog written by a fellow student on fossil fuels, population pressures and renewable energy.
Friday, L. (2013) Breaking the fossil fuel habit, accessed 26/05/2015 from BUToday: http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/the-climate-crisis-breaking-the-fossil-fuel-habit/
Holdren, J.P. and Ehrlich, P.R. (1974) Human Population and the Global Environment: Population growth, rising per capita material consumption, and disruptive technologies have made civilization a global ecological force, American Scientist, 62(3): 282-292.
Worldometers (n.d.) World Population, accessed 26/05/15 from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
Figure 1: The World Bank (2015) Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita), accessed 26/05/15 from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.PCAP.KG.OE/countries?display=graph
Figure 2: IEA (2014) Global renewable electricity production by region, historical and projected, accessed 26/05/15 from http://www.iea.org/topics/renewables/