We have become energy addicted

As seen on the infographic of the previous article What future awaits us ? our energetic consumption has kept on increasing drastically for the past 70 years. And more than 80% of the global energy consumed comes from fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels, what and where are they exactly?

Fossil Fuels represent great amounts of energy which have been stocked within the earth for millions of years. This was the result of a planetary equilibrium kept by extremely slow and continuous natural processes.

We tend to picture fossil fuels mostly as oil, coal and gas used for transportation or heating. But this is only one side of it. Fossil fuels are actually behind everything we consume.

Whether it is as a primary resource, as energy used to transform matter into desirable goods or to package them before even more are used to transport the final good to us. Almost everything we possess, consume or use has a carbon footprint. What we sit on, what we live in, what we wear, what we eat, what we drink… Even what we sleep on has a carbon footprint. Anything industrially made, needs energy to fuel the machines making it. Even products made out of noble materials, fossil fuels are behind it.

I am well aware of the cognitive dissonance it might create as we realise their omnipresence. It is in the organic fruit you like, it is in the present you offer to someone you love, it is the tool you work with… Full disclosure, the laptop I am using right now to share this with you has had a huge carbon footprint too! High-tech devices, because of the amount of REE they require a huge amount of natural resources. 800kg of raw materials are needed for a 2kg laptop for instance. 3/4 of a laptop total carbon footprint will be generated during its making process. Paradoxically the smaller the technology is, the bigger the impact, because of its need in specific raw materials. It is called the ecological rucksack because of the hidden weight (of natural ressources) the device carries.

The global dependance on fossil fuels

We, as a species, have become entirely Fossil Fuel dependant. In this article, Jean-Marc Jancovici, (renowned French engineer specialised in the energetic transition) has come up with the concept of “energetic slave equivalent” to help us understand just how much. The average French person needs 200 times the energy he or she can deliver, here it would mean having 200 “energetic slaves” to afford one’s lifestyle. By creating a parallel between the energy each individual needs for the most basic task in his everyday life, compared to the energy we can physically produce, this video will give you an idea of the ratio we are talking about.

This would not seem so dramatic if only the global population was not increasing, if the standard of living (and consumption) of the average human on earth was not increasing as well and if the energy we use was clean and renewable, but that’s, unfortunately, not the case yet. The Kaya equation (below) gives an interpretation of the “carbon performance” of a specific country.

What is the Problem with fossil fuels?

Most of us know that the main problem with fossil fuels is tremendous amount of CO2 they release in the atmosphere through extraction, transformation and consumption processes. But are you sure to know the full extend of the issues they are actually causing?

As these emissions have outgrown the storage capacity of earth’s natural carbon sinks (e.g. forests and oceans), once rejected, the CO2 is stuck in the atmosphere, thus increasing the disequilibrium and leading to a raise of numerous negative effects beyond temperature increases. One of the greatest tools to gain awareness on these effects is the Climate Fresk (highly recommended).

We might think that a few degrees would not be so significant. But within an ecosystem, such a the human body for example, think about when you have a fever. 2 to 4 additional degrees quickly become problematic. The Climate Fresk highlights the causes and practices which have participated from near or from far to the climate changes as well as the consequences and negative loops they put the world in today. If you wish to better understand them, in order to better address them, sign up for one of their workshops or even better organise one for you and your colleagues !

 

Any question or query don’t hesitate to reach out: paul.furon@audencia.com

Thank you reading.

Paul Furon

 

 


Sources:

Jean-Marc Jancovici – How much of a slave master am I?

The Toaster Challenge

National Geographic.org

Client Earth – What is a carbon sink?

Climate Fresk

ADEME – La face cachée du numérique

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