EnergyBonfire © Totte Jonsson

 

 

 

Affordable, safe, reliable energy underpins the world's economies, and will be vital for continued development in rich and poor countries alike.  As technology advances, products and processes are generally becoming more energy-efficient.  However, because the global population is growing, and because we each rely on technology more than our ancestors did, our total energy use is rising. 1  In all areas of life from travel to food preparation, agriculture to laundry, human effort is being replaced by fossil-fuel derived power. Power station © Constantin Jurcut 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fossil fuels (coal, peat, oil and gas) provided 81% of the world's total primary energy supply in 2007. 2  The problems associated with fossil fuels are well-documented and include climate change and air pollution, as well as the problem of simply running out of accessible fossil fuel reserves.  Most typically these translate into human costs: for example, air pollution caused by electricity generation and transport cost the US an estimated $120 billion in health damages in 2005. 3  In the UK, current estimates are that air pollution reduces life expectancy by an average of 7-8 months, with social costs estimated at £9-21 billion per year.  This excludes indirect effects on our environment, and additional health costs that cannot currently be quantified.Solar panels © Patrick Moore 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we are to supply the world's growing energy needs without irreversibly damaging the earth's systems or compromising society’s quality of life, we will need to develop innovative solutions to these challenges.  Biodiversity can help us to find some of the answers.breaking waves © Timo Balk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:
1. Global Carbon Impacts of Energy Using Products (2009)  Report for Defra / the Market Transformation Programme by Klinckenberg Consultants
2. International Energy Agency (accessed February 2010)

3. National Research Council report on hidden costs of energy (accessed February 2010)

4. UK Air Quality Strategy (accessed March 2010)

 

Further reading:
BP statistical review of world energy (accessed February 2010)
JNCC (2008) provision of evidence of the conservation impacts of energy production (accessed February 2010)
How to live a low-carbon life, Chris Goodall (2007).  Earthscan, London, UK.