Chapter 32: Low-carbon economy: dark age or golden age?
To many, a global economy driven by fossil fuels seems ‘unsustainable’. Traditionally, the fact that coal, petroleum and natural gas were non-renewable resources implied that, at least in the very long run, if not sooner, they could not be humanity´s dominant energy sources (Jevons, 1865; Hamilton in Chapter 1). However, humanity’s ability to discover, extract and use nearly 500 billion tonnes of oil equivalent of fossil fuels (see Figure 32.1) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution has led to 1200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (see Figure 32.2). The rising global emissions, along with other greenhouse gas emissions, are threatening to accelerate climate change. The threat of climate change has implied that fossil fuels, without worldwide carbon capture and sequestration mechanisms or successful geo engineering projects, will impose a mounting burden on the atmosphere (Hendry and Pretis in Chapter 12). Thus, within the wider context of history, the fossil fuel energy system seems ‘unsustainable’ and only to be a temporary phase.
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