Since 1950, the world’s global population has been steadily and consistently growing at a rate of about 1-2% each year (Cilluffo and Ruiz.) While this may seem like a relatively low rate of change, it has caused our population to jump from about 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.8 billion in 2019 (Cilluffo and Ruiz.) Although it is expected to level off by 2100, the growing population has contributed to one of the largest issues affecting humans today- the energy demand problem. Growing populations have led to increasing energy demands which have and continue to be mostly fulfilled by fossil fuels.
In 2018, the global energy demand rose by 2.3%, which is the fastest it has risen in the past 10 years (IEA.) While demands for all sorts of fuels have increased, fossil fuels fulfill almost 70% of the demand, causing CO2 emissions to rise by 1.7% (IEA.)
So, why should we care? Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and is the main anthropogenic cause of climate change. Not only do increased greenhouse gases increase global temperatures, but they also contribute to a myriad of issues including ocean acidification, extreme weather and sea-level rise.
While these issues may seem far removed, we are already beginning to feel the effects of climate change. Pacific Island countries such as the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and the Maldives are already seeing massive amounts of land erosion due to sea level rise, along with impacts to their economy due to damaged reefs and fishing grounds (Letman.) This also poses the issue of climate refugees, who are forced to relocate due to destruction of their homelands.
While the effects of increased fossil fuel burning for energy has many consequences, it has a simple solution: decrease fossil fuel usage and increase the percentage of renewables powering our energy grids. But how do we achieve this? How do we shift towards greener energy without sacrificing economic growth, political ties or industry? What are the barriers to large scale institutional change? These are the questions I am looking forward to exploring in ENVS326 this semester.
Cillufio, A. and Ruiz, N.G. “World’s population is projected to nearly stop growining by the end of the century.” Pew Research Center. June 17, 2019. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/17/worlds-population-is-projected-to-nearly-stop-growing-by-the-end-of-the-century/
Letman, J. “Rising seas give island nation a stark choice: relocate or elevate.” National Geographic. November 19, 2018. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/rising-seas-force-marshall-islands-relocate-elevate-artificial-islands/
“Global energy demand rose by 2.3% in 2018, its fastest pace in the last decade.” International Energy Agency. March 26 2019. https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2019/march/global-energy-demand-rose-by-23-in-2018-its-fastest-pace-in-the-last-decade.html