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Energy... beyond oil$
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Fraser Armstrong and Katherine Blundell

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199209965

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199209965.001.0001

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(p.215) 14 Summary
Energy... beyond oil

Robert May

Oxford University Press

Energy . . . Beyond Oil is important and timely and should be understood within the wider context of global climate change and future energy demands. In the 1780s John Watts developed his steam engine and so began the Industrial Revolution. At this time, ice-core records show that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were around 288 parts per million (ppm). Give or take 10 ppm, this had been their level for the past 6,000 years, since the dawn of the first cities. As industrialization drove up the burning of fossil fuels in the developed world, CO2 levels rose. At first the rise was slow. It took about a century and a half to reach 315 ppm. The rise accelerated during the twentieth century: 330 ppm by the mid-1970s; 360 ppm by the 1990s; 380 ppm today. This change of 20 ppm over the past decade is equal to that last seen when the most recent ice age ended, ushering in the dawn of the Holocene epoch, 10,000 years ago. If current trends continue, then by about 2050 atmospheric CO2 levels will have reachedaround500 ppm, nearly double pre-industrial levels. The last time our planet experienced such high levels was some 50 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch, when sea levels were around100 m higher than today. The Dutch Nobelist, Paul Crutzen, has, indeed, suggested that we should recognize that we are now living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. He sees this epoch as beginning around 1780, when industrialization began to change the geochemical history of our planet. Even today, there continues to exist a ‘denial lobby’, funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by sectors of the petrochemical industry, and highly influential in some countries. This lobby has understandable similarities, in tactics and attitudes, to the tobacco lobby that continues to deny smoking causes lung cancer, or the curious lobby denying that HIV causes AIDS. This denial lobby is currently very influential in the USA.

Keywords:   China, Industrial Revolution, Netherlands, anthropogenic climate change, buildings, carbon sequestration, decarbonization, energy efficiency, fusion energy, global warming

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