Garrett adds: "By finding this constant factor, the problem of [forecasting] global economic growth is dramatically simpler. There is no need to consider population growth and changes in standard of living because they are marching to the tune of the availability of energy supplies."
To Garrett, that means the acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions is unlikely to change soon because our energy use today is tied to society's past economic productivity.
"Viewed from this perspective, civilization evolves in a spontaneous feedback loop maintained only by energy consumption and incorporation of environmental matter," Garrett says. It is like a child that "grows by consuming food, and when the child grows, it is able to consume more food, which enables it to grow more."
Is Meaningful Energy Conservation Impossible?
Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use.
"Making civilization more energy efficient simply allows it to grow faster and consume more energy," says Garrett.
He says the idea that resource conservation accelerates resource consumption known as Jevons paradox was proposed in the 1865 book "The Coal Question" by William Stanley Jevons, who noted that coal prices fell and coal consumption soared after improvements in steam engine efficiency.
So is Garrett arguing that conserving energy doesn't matter?
"I'm just saying it's not really possible to conserve energy in a meaningful way because the current rate of energy consumption is determined by the unchangeable past of economic production. If it feels good to conserve energy, that is fine, but there shouldn't be any pretense that it will make a difference."
Yet, Garrett says his findings contr
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah