Energy requirements of a good life are surprisingly low

By | April 20, 2022

Anthropocene magazine reports:

The average global energy consumption—79 gigajoules per person per year—is sufficient to power a healthy, comfortable life for everyone on the planet, according to a new study.

The analysis is part of a growing body of research aimed at figuring out how to achieve climate goals while also providing modern energy resources to those who lack it. The findings suggest that this balance might be easier than expected to strike: the world doesn’t need a massive expansion of energy infrastructure; energy just needs to be more equitably distributed.

By the same token, countries with high per-capita energy use could reduce consumption without sacrificing well-being. In the United States, for example, energy use is about three and a half times the global average at 284 gigajoules per person per year.

“Energy use and consumption per person have risen even faster globally than population growth,” says Rob Jackson, professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University in California. “People in countries like the U.S. are starting to ask what all this extra stuff filling our lives gets us. The answer appears to be very little, perhaps nothing.”

Jackson and his colleagues analyzed energy-use data from 1971 to 2018 for 140 countries around the world. They cross-referenced these data with 9 different metrics of well-being, including life expectancy, infant mortality, food supply, access to sanitation services, access to electricity, and even more abstract measures such as happiness and prosperity. [Continue reading…]

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