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Studies in Geophysics: Energy and Climate
It has become increasingly apparent in recent years that human capacity to perturb inadvertently the global environment has outstripped our ability to anticipate the nature and extent of the impact. It is time to redress that imbalance.
The world’s climate could be perturbed in a number of ways, for example, through excessive destruction of forests and grasslands, thermonuclear war, and through our procedures for satisfying energy demands.
Examination of the possible long-term effects of energy use is particularly timely. With the end of the oil age in sight, we must make long-term decisions as to future energy policies. One lesson we have been learning is that the time required for transition from one major source to another is several decades. We cannot make major mistakes and expect to rectify them quickly. Thus it is important to examine carefully the potential long-term effects of our energy policies.
This report is concerned with the technical considerations that suggest possible impact on the climate of a growing world population and an increasing per capita use of energy. It is intended as a preliminary step in a process, which will require a number of years to complete, aimed at placing in the hands of policymakers credible information on the most likely climatic consequences of major dependence on fossil fuels as a source of energy for an increasingly industrialized society. Even at this early and still somewhat uncertain stage, the implications warrant prompt attention.
The consequences of using fossil fuels as a principal source of energy over the