ArticlesInteraction of Science and Technology with Societal Problems

A Global and Long-Range Picture of Energy Developments

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Science  04 Jul 1980:
Vol. 209, Issue 4452, pp. 174-182
DOI: 10.1126/science.209.4452.174


Most studies of energy supply and demand ignore either global inter-dependence or the long time spans necessary to adjust to new energy sources. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis has therefore studied on a global scale, for seven major world regions, the balance between energy supply and demand for the next 50 years. Reported here are the results for two benchmark scenarios. In the "low" scenario world energy consumption increases from today's 8.2 terawatt-year per year to 22 terawatt-year per year in 2030; in the "high" scenario, consumption increases to 35 terawatt-year per year. The study showed that time will be the limiting constraint in adapting the energy supply infrastructure to changing resource availability; resources will be available until the second half of the next century, but a strong shift will be required to low-grade fossil fuels such as shale oil and tar sands. Each scenario studied indicated increased environmental problems associated with increased use of fossil fuels, and potential geopolitical problems associated with the world distribution of resources.