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The Energy Pillars of Society: Perverse Interactions of Human Resource Use, the Economy, and Environmental Degradation

John W. Day (), Christopher F. D’Elia (), Adrian R. H. Wiegman (), Jeffrey S. Rutherford (), Charles A. S. Hall (), Robert R. Lane () and David E. Dismukes ()
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John W. Day: Louisiana State University
Christopher F. D’Elia: Louisiana State University
Adrian R. H. Wiegman: Louisiana State University
Jeffrey S. Rutherford: Louisiana State University
Charles A. S. Hall: State University of New York
Robert R. Lane: Louisiana State University
David E. Dismukes: Louisiana State University

Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, 2018, vol. 3, issue 1, 1-16

Abstract: Abstract To meet the COP21 2 °C climate target, humanity would need to complete a transition to renewable energy within the next several decades. But for decades, fossil fuels will continue to underpin many fundamental activities that allow modern society to function. Unfortunately, net energy yield from fossil fuels is now falling, and despite substantial growth in renewable energy, total global energy demand and fossil fuel consumption are still increasing. Recent studies document promising trends in net energy yield from new renewable energy, particularly wind and solar. However, most studies do not fully consider the complexities of multiple factors including production intermittency, storage, the need to replace a massive infrastructure network, and lack of fungibility of different energy sources. Also, oft-overlooked, is that human impacts have caused widespread degradation of natural ecosystems and the provisioning of ecosystem goods and services, especially affecting vulnerable areas like coastal zones and arid regions. An accelerated renewable energy transition to meet climate targets and replace declining stocks of high net yielding fossil fuels will compete with resources needed for crucial investments to mitigate already locked in climate change and environmental degradation impacts. Integrative approaches that include all costs can help balance interdependent factors such as net energy dynamics, resource allocation, and ecosystem degradation. Energy-climate investment pathways produce economic output and quality of life tradeoffs that must be considered. Accordingly, developing future energy policy requires a systems approach with global boundaries and new levels of appreciation of the complex mix of interrelated factors involved.

Keywords: Climate change; Fossil fuels; Renewable energy investment; Biophysical economics; Ecosystem degradation and management; Net energy; Energy transition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1007/s41247-018-0035-6

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