Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Modeling the Economy As a Physics Problem

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the gazintas-and-comezoutas dept.

Earth 452

University of Utah physicist Tim Garrett has published a study that approaches the economy and its relation to global warming as a physics problem — and comes to some controversial conclusions: that rising carbon dioxide emissions cannot be stabilized unless the world's economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day. The study was panned by economists and was rejected by several journals before its acceptance in the journal Climatic Change. "[Garrett discovered that] Throughout history, a simple physical constant... links global energy use to the world's accumulated economic productivity, adjusted for inflation. So it isn't necessary to consider population growth and standard of living in predicting society's future energy consumption and resulting carbon dioxide emissions. ... 'I'm not an economist, and I am approaching the economy as a physics problem,' Garrett says. 'I end up with a global economic growth model different than they have.' Garrett treats civilization like a 'heat engine' that 'consumes energy and does "work" in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy,' he says. That constant is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. So if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, 'each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption,' Garrett says. ... Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use."

cancel ×

452 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Its a population crunch (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257142)

We have to stop somewhere. At six billion or six trillion. It has to happen. The Heinlein fan in me says this will happen with war and starvation. Its not that hard to imagine, it happens all the time.

Or we can learn to regulate our population, as the Chinese are trying to do. Even in the last 30 years there has been a recognition that high standards of living reduce fertility. But have China and India gone too far for this to work? I am sure the US nearly did, because you have to wear high birth rates and high energy consumption at the same time for a while (the 1950s) for it to work. The same peak would put the energy consumption of 10 billion USA or AU people in China alone.

Don't ask me for help. I'll be starting a farm on Ganymede.

Re:Its a population crunch (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257234)

There was a study published in Nature several years back that said population was likely to level off at 10 billion by 2100 due to affluence, wars, etc. IIRC, it may have even been on Slashdot.

-l

Re:Its a population crunch (4, Interesting)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257246)

Kind of missing the point of the article. The population is a function of the energy consumption which directly correlates to the economy. Ergo; reducing the population will lead to decreased energy consumption, and a collapse in the economy. This is the fundemental problem here, economic growth is directly tied to energy usage. The only way out is a radical reform of the fundemental way our economy is _defined_. Sobering research indeed.

Re:Its a population crunch (4, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257250)

"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." -Kenneth Boulding

On a related note, the U.S. Census Bureau World Population Clock [census.gov] just ticked over to 6.8 billion a few minutes ago.

Don't worry about (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257530)

Like many republicans have said, this issue WILL resolve itself. What bothers me is that it will likely be in my lifetime, but it will certainly be in my kids lifetime.

Re:Its a population crunch (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257264)

Even in the last 30 years there has been a recognition that high standards of living reduce fertility.

I think I saw an article fairly recently that suggested that as the standard of living increases past some point, this reverses itself and fertility rates start to go back up.

Re:Its a population crunch (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257372)

Even in the last 30 years there has been a recognition that high standards of living reduce fertility.

I think I saw an article fairly recently that suggested that as the standard of living increases past some point, this reverses itself and fertility rates start to go back up.

I doubt there are any observations to support that yet. People breed extra children if they believe some of their children will die before they reproduce. Maybe if we had robots to raise the children hands off, so people started to say "I'm bored with that kid lets have another one" and were able to act on that impulse at nearly zero cost (like buying a new car) then we would see that happen.

Re:Its a population crunch (2, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257378)

Even in the last 30 years there has been a recognition that high standards of living reduce fertility.

I think I saw an article fairly recently that suggested that as the standard of living increases past some point, this reverses itself and fertility rates start to go back up.

Yes, that was in the news, but when you actually look at the data, the evidence for an upturn in fertility at very high affluence levels is not statistically significant.

Re:Its a population crunch (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257266)

We can regulate our population all we want - others won't, and we'll just be a diminishing share. It's scary how much despite our intelligence, we are like cultures in a dish. We reproduce to consume all the available resources, adapt to live with diminishing resources, contend for resources with the other colonies in our dish. There will be perfectly rational and equitable geopolitical justifications for the resource wars of the 21st century. Ultimately Malthus wins. Of the 6 billion humans we have now a third of them are starving. It's hard to imagine getting to 6 trillion.

Unlike the culture, we can escape the dish. That is probably the best outcome we can hope for though it does nothing for those who remain behind.

Re:Its a population crunch (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257286)

Barring nigh-miraculous breakthroughs in thrust technology(which would likely also mean useful breakthroughs in ground-based energy generation) escaping the dish is just going to result in one overpopulated dish, and one or more hostile new dishes on their way to being overpopulated.

It has a certain sci-fi appeal, and there isn't anything wrong with trying; but it neither solves the problems in dish one, nor exempts dishes two through N from the same problems.

Re:Its a population crunch (1, Insightful)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257512)

It also explains why there are no signs of super civilizations out there. Basically organic life is too stupid to stop population growth before it destroys its environment. I'm glad I lived in the last century before the human race realized that it was going to die out because of the inbuilt greed of our genes which multiplied by our intelligence guarantee our extinction.

So long and thanks for all the fish, I'm out of here.

Re:Its a population crunch (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257516)

Great. We should never have left the trees then.

Re:Its a population crunch (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257560)

This is probably the answer.

Re:Its a population crunch (1, Flamebait)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257294)

"Stop" is such a beautiful euphemism for what is essentially death. A lot of death.

We can't stop population growth
It will eventually stop of it's own (or so we hope) but probably not before world population doubles once more
With the current output we don't have enough food to keep everyone alive, and we're FAR short of what everyone would like to eat (never mind the fact that people generally want more than just food) (we did 10 years ago, I know, today, we don't, thank you "anti-co2" biofuels advocates, who managed to seriously increase both co2 AND hunger)
The statement above is ignoring the disconnect between where hunger is and where agricultural production is plentiful, and the energy for transit that requires. This to attract attention to the fact that just having sufficient total food is not enough, you need transit infrastructure, and the energy to run it.

So "stop somewhere" begs the question :

Who gets to die, and who gets to live, and what makes you think the rest of the world will accept that answer without a fight ?

Of course, unless that question is answered satisfactorily for everyone involved (including those asked to die), you're right :

The Heinlein fan in me says this will happen with war and starvation. Its not that hard to imagine, it happens all the time.

Which is probably how this whole evolution thing is supposed to work in the first place. Needless to say, no matter how atheist someone is, he or she will stress the need to intervene.

Re:Its a population crunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257460)

"Stop" is not a euphemism for death. It's a euphemism for sterilization (that or stop fucking, but that won't happen).

Re:Its a population crunch (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257472)

Please stop using it's when you mean ITS. Please stop using "begs the question" when you mean "raise the question".

Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (5, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257304)

Physicist Tim Garret is correct when he observes "that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use". That is another way of saying that society grows and expands up to the constraints of the system.

When we conserve energy, we can and do use the saved energy for other activities. "conservation" is not really conservation if we promptly use the saved energy for another activity.

Consider the food supply. The population has now reached a size at which the current amount of food is not sufficient for everyone to eat well. So, scientists at ADM and other companies are trying to invent new ways to increase food production. Suppose that the scientists succeed and that we increase food production by 20%. The population, enjoying this additional food, now grows by an additonal 20%: we return to the original problem.

In the long run, the 4 horsemen will eventually impose their own solution on humankind. Many people will die in the process.

Inevitably, some Slashdotter will claim that yet-to-be discovered technology will always provide a fix for the problem. Believing that yet-to-be discovered technology will be discovered (and will be the salvation) is exactly equivalent to believing the numerous claims of religion. Often, the same Slashdotter who is atheist does not hestitate to believe in yet-to-be discovered technology. A hypocrite, a fool, or both?

Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (5, Informative)

dintlu (1171159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257398)

Starvation is a geopolitical problem, not a resource problem. Grain production has consistently outpaced population growth for the past 30 years. Even during last year's food crisis, resource shortfalls were not an issue.

more here: http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm [worldhunger.org]

Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257464)

Grain production has only increased due to increased inputs, such as mechanical labor, increased use of fertilizers, better breeds (strains?) that consume the given inputs more efficiently, etc. Land is and will always be a constraint. Production can be improved - with energy. Always energy. Want more food? Increase energy consumption.
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2004/02/0079915

Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257540)

Grains come from plants, which are living beings as well. They grow geometrically like we do. Space also grows, since the Universe is expanding. Energy... we do not even use a fraction of the Sun's output...

Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257450)

Inevitably, some Slashdotter will claim that yet-to-be discovered technology will always provide a fix for the problem. Believing that yet-to-be discovered technology will be discovered (and will be the salvation) is exactly equivalent to believing the numerous claims of religion. Often, the same Slashdotter who is atheist does not hestitate to believe in yet-to-be discovered technology. A hypocrite, a fool, or both?

I think your an idiot for bring up atheism at all. The idea of believing something new will come along to save is believed by the religious just as much (if not more) then by the atheist. Most of my friends are atheist are quite certain that some new technology would arrive in time, if at all. This had NOTHING to do with someone's religious stance, bringing it up just makes you a troll and is likely to cause a flame war.

Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (1)

happyemoticon (543015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257454)

That's not a very good metaphor. With religion, our actions have no bearing on the existence of metaphysical truths or deities, whereas our actions can have an impact on the state of technology.

Faith in technology is very different from religious faith. Think of it as a hypothesis. We observe, through reliable historical documents as well as the current state of the world, that in the past non-military technology has improved the condition of the human race. Based on this robust evidence, we might safely conclude that this will continue to be the case, at least in the near future. It's a fairly simple leap of faith, and one grounded in observable reality. In my opinion, if we fail, it will not be because we've already reached a hard limit to human intellectual achievement, but because we've lost faith in technology and incentivizing non-productive economic activity (banking, lawyering, etc).

Ultimately, the solution will require more than technology. It will require an economy that is capable of being stable when in net equilibrium and population controls and that sort of thing. But to say that we should all just give up because it's insurmountably hard to get people to stop fucking and/or use birth control isn't just pessimistic, it's nihilistic.

Re:Its a population crunch (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257348)

It's tragedy of the commons.

You see, everyone wants to have a healthy planet, but nobody wants to be stuck holding the bag if they're the only ones restraining their consumption.

Re:Its a population crunch (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257396)

The google ad on this page says "This is your last chance to profit from the rising cost of crude oil".

Re:Its a population crunch (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257490)

"The Heinlein fan in me says this will happen with war and starvation."

The trick is to be the killers instead of the dead, and the fed instead of the starving. Should it come down to that, I suspect we'll find it easy to shitcan idealism and kill our competition.

Given a choice between theirs and ours, I'll choose ours.

Pettern research (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257532)

coon
oooo
oooo
nooc

NIggER
IggERE
ggEREg
gEREgg
EREggI
REggIN

FaG
aaa
GaF

Re:Its a population crunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257536)

War it is then.

Interesting (1)

improfane (855034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257152)

If you build something more efficient now, you can do more than you could originally.

That makes sense.

If a kettle takes half as much electricity to boil water than it did before, you can boil twice as much water with the same electricity right? You end up using more hot water for other purposes? Like more tea.

Someone else can provide a car analogy, I don't have a licence to drive.

Is what he is saying? Ultimately we are just trading energy for more of the same work, right?

Re:Interesting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257224)

Someone else can provide a car analogy, I don't have a licence to drive.

When someone buys a more fuel efficient car, they often end up driving more miles than before since it costs them less per mile, thus negating much of the fuel savings.

Re:Interesting (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257432)

I keep seeing people posting this but have yet to find an actual study that investigates this. Is this from a reliable source, or are people just perpetuating a myth here?

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257528)

its not actually a function of driving 1 car more. The model is applied to working families, and it turns out that if a family gets a cheep fuel efficient car, they usually get another soon, so both the husband and wife drive to work separately, and run separate errands, instead of traveling together. thus, fuel consumption is increased.

Re:Interesting (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257556)

1. western countries keep importing 100000s of new immigrants yearly, driving up demand for all products in a scheame/sham/scam to increase the economy, theres no other reason, they dont care for diversification or new fancy shops. Its all to do with GDP.

2. Your local power plant has either a constant or increasing energy production, everyones reduction isnt reflected in the power plant.

Re:Interesting (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257256)

While this is probably largely true, human demands do seem to expand to fill available resources, our demands aren't infinite.

The marginal value of your first dollar, or 10 dollars(depending on local cost of living), is enormous. You get to eat. The marginal value of your 1,000,001th dollar is a great deal smaller.

There isn't a fixed "ceiling" above which people demand no more energy; but there are a number of "floors" below which things get really ugly, really fast(like, "Rwandan Genocide" bad, not just "I want a cooler yacht" bad). If you can increase efficiency enough, it should be possible to reduce the amount of damage that needs to be done in order to head off genuinely bad outcomes.

There is also a second factor to consider: When people are desperate(or ignorant, or stupid), they will be willing to consume their capital to survive. Destroying fish stocks by catching juveniles, farming harder and harder until the topsoil erodes, polluting water supplies, eating the seed corn, deforestation to make charcoal(on the subject of deforestation, compare the Dominican Republic with Haiti. Same island, same location, one country has its forests, one doesn't. The Dominican Republic is merely poor. Haiti is deeply fucked.), and so forth. Even in strict economic terms(i.e. setting the intrinsic worth of "the environment", beyond its practical utility, at 0) this is a stupid plan. If the alternative is starving, though, people will do it anyway. If efficiency increases, fewer people will be desperate enough to eat their capital instead of their income.

Re:Interesting (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257338)

That depends. In some cases efficiency increases actually save energy, in other cases they do just the reverse.

The same goes for what happens if electricity supply goes down. It could result in less resource usage, but the problem is that large electricity plants are just so much more efficient than what small people can do themselves. But people will use whatever they can for necessities. So for heating, for example, or light, it's better to increase the electiricity supply, as the alternative, everyone milking their surroundings for lamp oil or firewood, is far, far worse.

This is called the Jevon's paradox [wikipedia.org]

History has been near-uniformly on the side of "efficiency increases increase energy usage". Besides, I know lots of people who wish to "lower co2 output". I know none who will let their house temperature drop by more than 1 or 2 degrees at night, and the green whiner in my family actually warms his (badly insulated, and horrendously expensive to fix) house to ridiculous temperatures. Low temperatures hurt his bones or something. But we should "all work to lower co2 output".

Questions as to how that's going to work always seem to involve "big business and government" (whoever that is) doing something ... something that presumably does not result in a lower temperature in his house ... or in schools ... or in company premises (that's worker abuse) ... or in shops ... the more you ask him, the longer this list tends to get.

So my conclusion would be : we're in for a rough ride.

Re:Interesting (1)

Alef (605149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257564)

If a kettle takes half as much electricity to boil water than it did before, you can boil twice as much water with the same electricity right? You end up using more hot water for other purposes? Like more tea.

Or you can continue to boil the same amount of water and reduce carbon emissions without reducing your standard of living.

I must say I find the summary somewhat contradictory: Higher efficiency is said to spur the economy, at the same time it says that "that rising carbon dioxide emissions cannot be stabilized unless the world's economy collapses". If higher efficiency spurs the economy, then there must be room for reducing energy use without an economic collapse.

Just like money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257154)

"Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use."
If you are getting enough bang for the buck, you will spend the buck; otherwise you will save it until the time is ripe.

Physics problem? (4, Funny)

illumastorm (172101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257172)

So, is the economy or global warming treated as a perfect sphere?

Re:Physics problem? (4, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257322)

Ah, but I found the solution to global warming. If we model people as an ideal gas confined to a box, increasing the number of people while keeping volume and pressure constant will decrease the temperature!

Re:Physics problem? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257352)

Pretty much, it appears.

From the summary it seems that he looks only at energy consumption while totally ignoring that our energy sources do differ in their potential of adding waste energy to the biosphere.

Re:Physics problem? (1)

haderytn (1232484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257358)

So, is the economy or global warming treated as a perfect sphere?

Moo

solution from the 50's-80's (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257178)

Global thermonuclear war : 80% less economic output in developed countries, a nuclear winter, and a selection of the fittest specimens of the human race plus a few Pygmeas, Tibetans, Polynesians, Swedes and Swiss.

Re:solution from the 50's-80's (1)

jwt3k (1686592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257214)

Because the pre-industrial world was fun, right? ;)

Not likely true (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257542)

WHile a lot of knowledge would be gone, it is far more likely that more than enough will be captured that the world would equal to at least 1900, probably later. The simple fact is, that libraries are a massive store of knowledge.

Re:solution from the 50's-80's (1)

ksemlerK (610016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257302)

All out nuclear war would largely limit damage from the initial detonation and fallout to the northern hemisphere [survivalring.org] .

Re:solution from the 50's-80's (1)

snaz555 (903274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257596)

All out nuclear war would largely limit damage from the initial detonation and fallout to the northern hemisphere [survivalring.org] .

Perhaps, but if the northern hemisphere becomes uninhabitable a billion or so people will want to migrate south. The northerners will still be the most heavily armed in the world, have a long history of manufacturing excuses for wars that are thinly disguised land grabs, and aren't going to take no for an answer.

Somewhat like safer cars (5, Interesting)

mangastudent (718064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257180)

conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use

This fits with an observation by insurance companies (or at least mine, USAA) that building safer cars results in people continuing to drive them to their preferred safety margin. We still end up with about as many crashes (but injuries are less).

Re:Somewhat like safer cars (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257288)

conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use

This fits with an observation by insurance companies (or at least mine, USAA) that building safer cars results in people continuing to drive them to their preferred safety margin. We still end up with about as many crashes (but injuries are less).

Well, injuries to occupants are less, anyway.

Re:Somewhat like safer cars (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257448)

One of the things the NCAP ratings take into account when testing a cars safety is the pedestrian protection measures utilised by the design. These can be zones on the bonnet which are likely to sustain impact which don't have bulky components close underneath, adding crumple zones for vertical impacts and in some cases air bags near the base of the windscreen to protect pedestrian's heads.

One of the other factors taken into consideration is the style of the bumper, ensuring it hits below the knee on an adult would mean the person is 'scooped up' rather than run over. I guess most 4x4s, SUVs, trucks etc fail massively at this - especially the ones with bullbars (which are banned in some countries).

Re:Somewhat like safer cars (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257306)

You can build a safer car, you can't build a smart(er) driver. Humans are the weak link there as stupidity is not limited by economics or safety margins..

Re:Somewhat like safer cars (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257394)

This fits with an observation by insurance companies (or at least mine, USAA) that building safer cars results in people continuing to drive them to their preferred safety margin. We still end up with about as many crashes (but injuries are less).

That was predicted by sociologists, but turns out not to be the case.

The mileage-adjusted accident death rate of automobiles has dropped significantly with the added safety features.

Issac Newton had a wonderful model for our economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257188)

It involved an apple.

Someone, enlighten me... (1)

ddegirmenci (1644853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257236)

On the six-billion-body problem, please?

Re:Someone, enlighten me... (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257376)

Why do people always use this straw man? The population isn't really the problem, it's an effect. The fact that Homo sapien by and large are prone to being ignorant, stupid, selfish and short sighted is the problem. Not to mention the lack of ability to work together on a species scale. Some people like to think that we are better than other animals, yet I fail to see how they come to this conclusion. We eat, sleep, work, and even build things just as other species do. We'll even put massive amounts of time and energy into killing one another on a grand scale over a piece of fertile land or even a rather inhospitable desert or whether or not they believe in a particular imaginary friend. Anyway the point is that the population isn't the problem, it's what you do with it that counts. If anything I suppose you could say there are simply too many stupid people.

Re:Someone, enlighten me... (2, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257436)

I suspect that most people think that the problem is the rest of the population. The portion of the population that makes up their culture is usually not considered to be part of the problem, but everyone else is.

weird (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257240)

It makes sense that the economy is directly related to energy use.
It doesn't make sense to maintain ridiculous standards of living ("But I NEED a car! How can I get a girlfriend if I don't have a car?!").
On monday I plan to read the actual article, not just the sciencedaily report, because I'm curious about the "1 nuclear plant" per day conclusion...

Re:weird (1)

jwt3k (1686592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257274)

I'd also like to know about that conclusion. In the future, perhaps the cost of producing one nuclear plant's worth of energy will fall. After all, great strides are being made in renewable energy, which seems like it would be far cheaper to maintain than nuclear plants, in terms of energy produced per dollar...

Simple Solution (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257242)

Embrace Communism and ditch capitalism. That's right boys and girls, capitalism is the cause of global warming and communism removes all incentive to destroy the environment.

Re:Simple Solution (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257276)

Which is why Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are environmental Garden of Edens.

Re:Simple Solution (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257386)

Fucktards like you tend to get Communism mixed up with statist capitalism.

Re:Simple Solution (3, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257504)

Which is why Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are environmental Garden of Edens.

Don't forget China [chinahush.com]

Adjusting for Inflation (3, Insightful)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257252)

The problem is that you can't adjust for inflation too far back, because the "basket of goods and services" [wikipedia.org] that inflation is measured upon changes every now and then, so the cost of everyday items now can't really be measured against the cost of items in 1920. Some things that were necessities in 1920 aren't anymore, and some things that are necessities now weren't even invented. The most you're going to get is a very rough estimation of what the dollar was worth.

Re:Adjusting for Inflation (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257584)

and inflation in the end is just about there now being more dollar (or some other currency) in existence then there was before...

end result, same pie, smaller slices...

Hardly Shocking (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257260)

Its long been known that energy consumption is highly correlated with economic output/growth. And I don't see how it is provactive to claim that conserving energy results in more being used (in the long run). Are not virtually *all* of our modern day appliances far more efficient than they were 10, 20, 40 years ago? And lame as our cars may be, they are far more efficient than they were in 1980. So even though we have 'conserved' through large gains in efficiency we are still using energy at a record clip.

Re:Hardly Shocking (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257330)

See though, it is proactive, because only people with engineering backgrounds or experience working with engineering teams (or a solid background in physics) are likely to notice what has been obvious to us forever; a system designed to profit from it's own inflation will inevitably implode upon itself.

Another implication... (4, Interesting)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257268)

There's another implication of that theory, and it's one that conservatives have been arguing for some time now: the end result of the current drive to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions is the destruction of the worlkd economy.

Re:Another implication... (1, Informative)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257466)

And this would be a bad thing how exactly?

Re:Another implication... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257548)

You have your nukes and shelters with 1 over 7 of male-female rationed occupants ready, already?

Re:Another implication... (5, Informative)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257544)

I wouldn't worry about that, as the end result of *not* cutting back on energy use is also the eventual destruction of the world economy. We live unsustainably. Oil isn't forever. Nukes aren't forever. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Re:Another implication... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257550)

Kind of like the end result of stopping a car just before a cliff is that the scenery no longer changes?

Not really that surprising... (5, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257270)

Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use.

While I can't speak to the validity of the underlying theory as such, a conclusion like this doesn't really come as a shock. The 20th century saw an steady stream of "labor-saving" inventions that are now part of our daily lives, but we don't have more leisure time than our ancestors -- in many cases, we actually have less -- because all of that liberated time was promptly consumed by new forms of work.

Sooner or later, we're going to have to come to terms with our now obsolete species-wide obsession with material acquisition. It made sense before we developed tools and civilization: grab all you can while it's abundant because scarcity is the norm. Now that we have all we actually need and then some, we're just killing ourselves with the byproducts of our superfluous production.

Re:Not really that surprising... (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257320)

Exactly. And my dad wont even loan me his fucking jigsaw. I'm supposed to spend $40 on one so I can cut one piece of fucking wood? Because he's going to use a jigsaw 40 times between Thanksgiving & Christmas?

Re:Not really that surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257430)

Fuck your father and his jigsaw-hoarding ways.

Re:Not really that surprising... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257476)

And another thing: he fucked your momma. How do you like them apples?

Re:Not really that surprising... (2, Informative)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257356)

Though the intellectual in me has trouble denying the truth in your statement, you can have my Nintendo Wii when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers, you damned hippie.

Re:Not really that surprising... (4, Interesting)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257456)

but we don't have more leisure time than our ancestors

How far back are you talking about? If it's the 19th century, then you're definitely wrong. We have huge swaths of leisure time compared with our 19th century ancestors. If it's the first half of the 20th century, then the economies in the West were still fairly unregulated although better than previously, and a lot of people were still more overworked than most of us are now. If you mean by ancestors your parents or grandparents, then you'd probably be right. The post-WWII period was a golden economic age for a large percentage of the population in the West. Unfortunately, with deregulation from the 1980s onwards exploitation has increased again.

We already knew that (3, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257272)

The climate is headed for a crash, and there's nothing that anybody can do about it.

Sorry, but that's the truth.

And one more thing: humans of the future will curse your bones. That is all, carry on.

Re:We already knew that (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257366)

No. Throughout history, the Earth has had wide climate swings. "Global warming" became "climate change", which is meaningless since the climate has always been changing. There are dozens of climate models predicting immediate disaster, yet none of them predicted the current climate (temperatures leveled off and started cooling).

Re:We already knew that (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257416)

The climate is headed for a crash, and there's nothing that anybody can do about it.

Sorry, but that's the truth.

And one more thing: humans of the future will curse your bones. That is all, carry on.

Yeah, right.

10,000 years ago - give or take - New York City was under the Arctic ice cap.

And yet we're not cursing Cro-Magnons for not going through the I-feel-good-about-myself mental masturbation and economic disaster of carbon cap-and-trade.

Jevons Paradox (5, Informative)

Arkange (92306) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257284)

This sounds like Jevons Paradox.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox [wikipedia.org]

Re:Jevons Paradox (2, Funny)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257404)

Wow, if only they'd mentioned that somewhere in the article...

Massive fail (2, Insightful)

Logic Worshipper (1518487) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257308)

Human's are not machines. We make choices, and those choices affect the things around us. We don't yet have the understanding of physics necessary to use it predict human behavior. In fact our current understanding of physics precludes the idea that physics can predict the human brain (assuming the brain operates on a quantum level), so this whole study is bullshit. Physics can't be used to predict the choices humans will make. Politics is complicated game played as part of human behavior. Some people study human behavior in an effort to predict or manipulate it, and economics is one science that studies human behavior. The one thing I know about this life is that you cannot apply the laws of physics to human behavior and expect humans to cooperate. Humans are irrational. Physics is rational. Attempting to apply the rationality of physics to irrational humans leads to nothing but massive, massive, FAIL.

Re:Massive fail (3, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257382)

The fail was on your comprehension.

What humans are and are not is irrelevant, it has nothing to do with choices, nothing to do with rational behavior.

It's simply saying that each unit of economic production results in the consumption of X units of energy. And that reducing energy consumption on something results not in less energy use but in more production.

Which leads to, if you want to reduce carbon dioxide levels, two choices:

1. Economic collapse.
2. Build obscene amounts of "clean" (in terms of carbon dioxide production) energy generators.

Re:Massive fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257428)

And your little foot-stomping rant has *what* to do with the article again?

Kevin

Gee wizz.. (4, Interesting)

Sapphon (214287) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257310)

Economists routinely use highly complicated mathematical models on stuff like this, and are just as routinely criticised for it because their simplifying assumptions aren't close enough to reality. Then along comes this bloke and uses a model that's not even based on human behaviour: the economy as a heat engine. No wonder he's been panned. Criticise economic models all you like, but at least the modern ones* have a foundation in human behaviour.

I can see why this gets a run here – scientists are cool nerds; economists are not – but in the end it's a guy doing research outside of his field. Sometimes you get tremendous insights [wikipedia.org] , but most of the time (as in this case) you don't.

* I'm not talking about the physiocrats here, okay?

Disclaimer: I am an economist.

Re:Gee wizz.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257424)

I can see why this gets a run here – scientists are cool nerds; economists are not – but in the end it's a guy doing research outside of his field.

isn't human behaviour part of psychology ?

Re:Gee wizz.. (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257482)

Yeah, if an actual scientist had just come along and made the entire premise of my profession irrelevant, I'd be pretty hacked off too. You're taking it pretty well, actually, and yes, I will have fries with that.

Really? (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257506)

What exactly do you base your statement that this is a bad model? Or do you object to something different and unique? Personally, I would like to see more about what this guy has before nuking it.

One issue that I have seen in soft 'Sciences', is that they resist the idea of applying real math and other science to their models. As it is, you just got done saying that economics counts on human behavior, i.e. psych, an even weaker science.

This is why My idea of the goods tax works (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257332)

and other solutions does not. Basically, tax all goods at point of consumption (retail tax) with a CO2 tax based on WHERE ASSEMBLED AND PRIMARY SUB-COMPONENT come from, combined with the CO2 to get there (the further away a good is from consumption should incur a heavier tax due to shipping). Any other solution, esp. the command economy that is being pushed by EU under Kyoto is doomed to fail. It is the ONLY solution that I have seen that will involve all countries, businesses and nearly all ppl.

Missing point (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257340)

So more expending means more more energy and more global warming? That didnt took into account the huge expendings that means try to reduce global warming. Is an ok analogy if we dont care about it (or say that is a hoax, a trap or a government/scientist evil plot), and dont take any measure. But once you start taking measures, expendings go up, and energy output (should) go down.

Reversing causal relationships (1, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257368)

[Garrett discovered that] Throughout history, a simple physical constant... links global energy use to the world's accumulated economic productivity, adjusted for inflation.

No.

Data also shows that there is a correlation between the number of teddy bears that children own and how wealthy their parents are. Does owning teddy bears cause a child's parents to be wealthy?

The more prosperous an economy is, the more things that the people buy. Including energy. This is not news. The correlation is that being wealthy means buying more energy, not vice versa!

Correlation is not causation.

modeling felonious fabrication as an 'economy' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257390)

that would be what appears to have transpired.

no matter, the lights are coming up all over now, so it will soon be easy to establish who 'owns'/owes what/anything.

it's been said that the greatest fear of the so-called rich, is that the so-called poor, will rise up & eat them.

One nuclear power plant a day (4, Insightful)

dominion (3153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257412)

"or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day."

I don't have a problem with this. Let's get building.

Eventually we'll turn towards the sun, and nuclear will only be our failsafe, but I have no problem with it filling in the gaps.

Mission Accomplished (1)

baKanale (830108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257434)

...unless the world's economy collapses

Mission accomplished, then. Kudos all around.

not original (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257468)

Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use."

This was discovered a LONG time ago - like 1865. It's called Jevon's Paradox. [wikipedia.org]

However, Jevon's (and Garrett) get turned upside down when energy sources deplete and costs for energy steadily increase. Then, the only way you can have economic growth IS through massive conservation, insofar as a society's base usage decreases faster than the net energy in the system does, thereby leaving a margin. This margin allows for "growth". As the system bumps up against depletion rates, the cost spikes and the economy contracts and energy use decreases again below depletion, allowing for more "growth". However, the total area under the growth curve is always decreasing as well - hence it is a "relative" growth. This relative growth needs to be put DIRECTLY into alternative energy systems, or you can kiss technical civilisation goodbye.

The sad part is, if we continue to demand absolute growth, and we do not create MASSIVE energy systems and mitigation systems, we'll drive civilisation right off a cliff. It'll make the movie "The Road" look like a documentary.

RS

So its a 'provocative implication' ? (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257474)

you say ? you mean,

"Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use."

this ?

and it provocates what, stupidity ? and makes a point of what, trivializing energy conservation ? i heard only a few more stupid things than this in my life.

lets not conserve energy then. because, it only spurs more growth and more energy use. lets go a mile of civilizational development whereas we could be able to go a mile and a half by conserving energy. yea.

lets do that, because, well, it is a 'provocative implication' of someone's theory. in another perspective, why conserve, whereas we are all going to die in the end anyway ...

Modelling the Economy as a Physics Problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257484)

It is these same bullshit approximations using nonsense equations based on wholly incomplete observations of complex systems that gave us marvels like the Drake Equation. One would think these Malthusian jerk asses would have learned by now. I propose we start reducing population by offing the people who write this sort of drivel. Here [geni.org] , look at the difference in scale between yearly human energy consumption and solar insulation. Perhaps we should implode the Sun at the same time we kill off the population. Yeah that would work.

Please do continue measuring tree rings, directly extrapolating tree ring thickness as a proxy for temperature for a thousand years, while discarding the last decades where you actually had accurate temperature measurements as they don't fit the tree ring data. Antropogenic global warming isn't even falsifiable. If temperature rises, its due to global warming. If it falls, it is due to global warming. This is not real science.

The economy is not a physics problem (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257526)

Not unless you model all the subatomic particles in all the humans making decisions, along with all those in their environment. It was exactly that sort of model -- the Phillips curve, to be precise -- that led economists to believe that inflation and recession were mutually exclusive. They're not, as we discovered in the 1960s.

And for a physicist, he doesn't seem to be approaching the subject very scientifically, either. He has found a correlation, and on that basis concludes that it's an unvarying constant? Whatever happened to hypothesis forming and testing? Whatever happened to the principle that it isn't science unless there is a model describing why cause and effect are related? Yes, I know physicists sometimes have to cope without those things -- gravitation is a classic example -- but then they recognise that there's a hole in their science and work hard to fix it. The correlation that Garrett has found has nothing like the scientific confidence of gravitation. He's found a correlation? Well, what is the mechanism that causes that correlation, and which bits of it can be changed? Only if none of them can possibly be changed is it a "physical constant", and if it can be changed if "the world's economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day" then clearly it can be changed. Surely, either it is a "simple physical constant" or it isn't?

The discovery of the correlation looks like interesting work. Unfortunately, it probably won't turn out to be useful work because it's too wrapped up in hysteria and by identifying the correlation coefficient as a "physical constant" Garrett has rejected the very thing that needs to be studied -- how we change it.

How about something positive for once? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30257568)

I'm a bit confused here. We have all these people screaming we are going to die if we don't stop raping the Earth and the all point to CO2 levels as the end result of raping the Earth. So why aren't we just removing CO2 from the air? I mean we know how to scrub CO2 from the air right? We even know how to convert CO2 to Carbon Monoxide and O...if CO2 levels are so important and we have no way to control the release of CO2...then why don't these governments we pay so many taxes to scrubbing the air already?

Take some deep breaths, everything is fine (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30257582)

This sounds like static analysis.

Projecting from current CO2 trends this simplisticly assumes that there are no mechanisms that will absorb more CO2 at higher concentrations. This has already scuppered some earlier climate predictions (IIRC scientists didn't used to take into account how much CO2 algae could really sequester).

Climate change is a problem, and it needs to be addressed. But I think the idea that we need to choose between a nuclear power station per day or getting rid of industrial civilisation is not to be taken seriously.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>