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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Power Corrupts


The second edition of Daniel S. Halacy's The Coming Age of Solar Energy (1973, or 1975 in paperback) starts with an interesting quote from Earl Cook's The Flow of Energy in an Industrial Society (Scientific American, Sept 1971):

"Power corrupts" was written of man's control over other men but it also applies to his control of energy resources. The more power an industrial society disposes of, the more it wants. The more power we use, the more we shape our cities and mold our economic and social institutions to be dependent on the application of power and the consumption of energy. We could not now make any major move toward a lower per capita energy consumption without severe economic dislocation, and certainly the struggle of people in less-developed nations toward somewhat similar energy consumption levels cannot be thwarted without prolonging mass human suffering. Yet there is going to have to be some leveling off in the energy demands of industrial societies. Countries such as the U.S. have already come up against constraints dictated by the availability of resources and by damage to the environment.

Halacy's book is interesting to read retrospectively. A whole two paragraphs devoted to climate change!

By the year 2000 it is estimated that [carbon dioxide concentrations] may have climbed to between 375 and 400 parts per million

Close, we hit 375ppm in 2002.

... by the year 2020 we may have increased the ambient air temperature over the United States by as much as 2.5 degrees F.
...
... some scientists feel that a few degrees could upset things dramatically

A bit on the high side, perhaps, as current estimates are around 1 degree Celsius (1.8 deg F) warming by 2020.


Posted by Phil at 6:23 PM
Edited on: Thursday, November 01, 2012 8:11 PM
Categories: Comment, Environment