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Searching for a Miracle: Report

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on December 7th, 2009

Source: PostCarbon Institute

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In November, the Post Carbon Institute and the International Forum on Globalization released their important and challenging new report Searching for a Miracle. The report, authored by Post Carbon Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg and edited by Jerry Mander, explores the question of whether any combination of known energy sources can successfully supply society’s energy needs at least up to the year 2100?

The report explores some of the presently proposed energy transition scenarios, showing why, up to this time, most are overly optimistic, as they do not address all of the relevant limiting factors to the expansion of alternative energy sources. Finally, it shows why energy conservation (using less energy, and also less resource materials) combined with humane, gradual population decline must become primary strategies for achieving sustainability.

The report makes the case that it is necessary to prepare societies for dramatic shifts in consumption and lifestyle expectations. It will also be necessary to promote a new ethic of conservation throughout the industrial world. A sharp reversal of today’s globalization of commercial activity—inherently wasteful for its transport energy needs—must be anticipated and facilitated, and government leaders must encourage a rapid evolution toward economies based on localism especially for essential needs such as food and energy.

The study remarks that this is not necessarily a negative prospect, as some research shows that, once basic human needs are met, high material consumption levels do not correlate with high quality of life.

The emphasis by policy makers on growth as the central goal and measure of modern economies is no longer practical or viable, as growth will be limited by both energy shortages and by society’s inability to continue venting energy production and consumption wastes (principally, carbon dioxide) into the environment without catastrophic consequences. Standards for economic success must shift from gross metrics of economic activity, to more direct assessments of human well-being, equity, and the health of the natural world.

Read the full article.

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