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Are growth and sustainability mutually exclusive?

17 March 2009

I try to stay up to date on the latest articles, blogs and tweets around energy efficiency and conservation, and it’s not very often that something gives me as much pause as this article by Siddhartha Shome on the Breakthrough Institute blog:

The fact of the matter is that energy consumption does not cause global warming, greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming.

I get what Shome is trying to communicate – that reducing greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t mean going to insane lengths to reduce energy use and thus impacting comfort and health, like getting rid of refrigeration. Unfortunately, at this moment, the vast majority of our energy consumption is directly creating greenhouse gas emissions which are contributing to climate change. While Minnesota and the United States continue to depend primarily on fossil fuels to provide our energy (and in Minnesota over 60% of our electricity is produced by burning coal), our energy use will be inexorably linked to greenhouse gas emissions.  Shome’s point, though, is that the solution isn’t to reduce our energy use past the point of comfort (like getting rid of refigerators) – it is to change the way our energy is produced.

Some day, we will get the majority or all of our energy from renewable and sustainable sources – at which point our energy use will not be tied to climate change.  This day will only be possible if we can cut down on our wasted energy and become as efficient as possible – which doesn’t have to be done at the sacrifice of comfort or convenience!  The Minnesota Energy Challenge has dozens of actions that are cheap, easy and actually help increase comfort and ease.  The solution is multi-pronged, but the benefits will be far greater than we can realize now.
:: Breakthrough Institute

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