My previous post casually described the major forces that drive energy consumption: Changes in population, changes in GDP and changes in technology.

With all the concern about climate change, people began to look at another measurable change–carbon emissions per unit of energy consumed. This actually is just another way of measuring how technology changes, but it produced another figure for everybody’s charts.

People like Roger Pielke Jr. have highlighted the need to reduce the amount of energy we use to do things–assuming more of us are going to do more things, that seems like a very good and basic idea. Those wishing to follow this subject more closely could do worse than spending serious time at his weblog. Here’s a chart from one of his posts:

From Roger Pielke Jr.

This chart basically shows that we are not currently making progress at using less energy to do more things. We’re backsliding. Worse, I’ve done calculations that seem to indicate that we would need to be ‘decarbonizing’ at about 4% a year to make progress on carbon emissions, as opposed to the 0.5% illustrated in Pielke’s chart.

A lot of serious thinking about energy issues has been going on, and some of this thinking  led to the creation of a credible equation that showed the relationship between the four variables shown in the quote from Wikipedia below. This equation was called the Kaya Identity.  Yoichi Kaya was the economist who expressed it first. Matt Damon has firmly rejected the idea of playing him in the movie.

Just pasting in from Wikipedia here,

“The identity is expressed in the form:

F = P * (G/P) * (E/G) * (F/E) = P * g * e * f


F is global CO2 emissions from human sources,
P is global population,
G is world GDP and g = (G/P) is global per-capita GDP,
E is global primary energy consumption and e=(E/G) is the energy intensity of world GDP,
and f=(F/E) is the carbon intensity of energy.

Extensive variables are uppercase while intensive variables are lowercase”

In my work on this blog I tend not to include carbon emissions in my measurements. This is more a philosophical choice than anything else. Everybody on the planet is measuring production of energy, which is why I’m trying to focus on consumption. Carbon dioxide feels like something that is produced, not consumed. Unless you’re a plant.

However, seeing that the main thrust of this blog is to note that population and GDP are rising quickly and leading to greater energy consumption than forecast by the great and the good, for those who agree with my thesis it then becomes very important to look at the role of technology in improving efficiency and lowering CO2 emissions.

If any of you are, like me, concerned about the growth trends I’ve highlighted for energy consumption, you’ll need to use the Kaya identity to puzzle through the consequences. Fortunately, if you’re new to this, a lot of people have been doing a lot of puzzling on the topic for the past couple of decades, so you won’t have to start from scratch.

4 responses to “Kayaks

  1. Tom, These are my cumulative comments from the past few weeks.
    1. Your May Day post on the Human Development Index is where I would have started the blog. (Actually the “What the world needs now…” video would have been a great place to start. Was that the DeShannon or Springfield version?) I knew it existed, but I forgot what it was called. We could spend a whole week on that. We should focus on the upper left hand corner of the graph where there is high development and low energy. That might be the future. There are different HDI’s and some tables include nations that your’s skips.
    2. Most of these decisions are not going to be made in the US or W Europe. I think that it is likely that the rest of the world will follow a different HDI / energy curve. In fact, I hope they do. South America already seems well on their way to a different development strategy. For energy, they seem to be making a larger proportional investment in hydro.
    3. By 2060 all of the hydro potential in the world will be developed. We should be focusing on how to do it efficiently and in such a way as to increase biodiversity. This is being ignored in the national debate. The national Sierra Club is opposed to hydro and is pro gas. All of the locals I know are the opposite. The politics there is material for a whole book.
    4. By 2060 we might be more worried by shortages and control of water than by energy. There were large areas of the northeast where water was taken for granted. Fracking is changing that fast.
    5. The only reason natural gas is so appealing right now is that it is harder to calculate its hidden costs.
    6. There is nothing that I would like more than to have a debate on energy where we didn’t discuss nuclear or CAGW. Maybe we could bury them on the same day?

  2. Hi Marty

    Thanks for this–as usual you make very cogent points. I’m not so sure about all hydro being developed by 2060–I think there’s a lot of potential in the southern hemisphere yet. I also think we should be doing more uprating in the northern hemisphere!

    I’m going to take your first point to heart and develop a post looking at it with other sources of HDI scoring. Thanks for the tip–how are you, anyhow?

  3. Graham Thompson

    This is interesting and relevant …

    An internal study by the U.S. EPA completed by Dr. Alan Carlin and John Davidson concluded the IPCC was wrong about global warming. One statement in the executive summary stated that a 2009 paper found that the crucial assumption in the Greenhouse Climate Models (GCM) used by the IPCC concerning a strong positive feedback from water vapor is not supported by empirical evidence and that the feedback is actually negative. Water vapor in the atmosphere causes a cooling effect, not a warming one. Carbon dioxide also causes a slight cooling effect but it so small it could never be measured by man’s instrumentation.

    EPA tried to bury the report. An email from Al McGartland, Office Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE), to Dr. Alan Carlin, Senior Operations Research Analyst at NCEE, forbade him from speaking to anyone outside NCEE on endangerment issues. In a March 17 email from McGartland to Carlin, stated that he will not forward Carlin’s study. “The time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed for this round. The administrator (Lisa Jackson) and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. …. I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office.” A second email from McGartland stated “I don’t want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change.”

    McGartland’s emails demonstrate that he was rejecting Dr. Carlin’s study because its conclusions ran counter to the EPA’s current position. Yet this study had its basis in three prior reports by Carlin (two in 2007 and one in 2008) that were accepted. Another government cover-up, just what the United States does not need.

    Eliminate this regulation immediately. This is a scientific tragedy.

  4. Hi Graham,

    I’m rather intentionally steering clear of the climate debates on this blog. I am well aware of Dr. Carlin and his work, and I have spoken with him. It, however, has nothing to do with the Kaya Identity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s