"I'm not an economist, and I am approaching the economy as a physics problem," Garrett says. "I end up with a global economic growth model different than they have."
Garrett treats civilization like a "heat engine" that "consumes energy and does 'work' in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy," he says.
"If society consumed no energy, civilization would be worthless," he adds. "It is only by consuming energy that civilization is able to maintain the activities that give it economic value. This means that if we ever start to run out of energy, then the value of civilization is going to fall and even collapse absent discovery of new energy sources."
Garrett says his study's key finding "is that accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor."
That "constant" is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. So if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, "each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption," Garrett says.
Garrett tested his theory and found this constant relationship between energy use and economic production at any given time by using United Nations statistics for global GDP (gross domestic product), U.S. Department of Energy data on global energy consumption during1970-2005, and previous studies that estimated global economic production as long as 2,000 years ago. Then he investigated the implications for carbon dioxide emissions.
"Economists think you need population and standard of living to estimate productivity," he says. "In my model, all you need to know is how fast energy consumption is rising. The reason why is because there i
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah