Sustainable energy development: performance and prospects

  • Jefferson M
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Concerns about sustainability, and the harsh realities of environmental
catastrophe, can be traced back at least 4000 years. This paper points
out how human pressures on the surrounding environment have had severe
consequences over this period, coal burning has had adverse consequences
traceable over the past 750 years, and the adverse environmental impacts
of using other fossil fuels have aroused attention more recently.
Heightened awareness of the need for sustainable development is a modem
development, evident in international and national debates since the
early 1970s. With the Brundtland Commission report published in 1987
came a framework for sustainable energy development. However,
performance under the four element, of that framework have been almost
uniformly disappointing. Fossil fuel use has continued to rise;
renewable energy use has made insufficient inroads; waste and
inefficiency in energy usage continues to be far too high; too many
people remain without modem energy services or are exposed to severe
pollution in the home and local atmosphere; there are mounting concerns
about the conventional oil resource base-and future supplies and prices
of oil and natural gas; greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and
evidence of human-induced climate change continues to mount. Indices of
national environmental performance suggest no country is performing
adequately; population, housing and transportation pressures result in
greater pollution, loss of natural habitats, and species reduction; and
poor governance is frequently cited as a major cause of poor
environmental performance. The prospects for sustainable energy are
bleak on current trends. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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  • M Jefferson

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