Thursday, May 17, 2018

Civilization is a heat engine, regardless of fuel used

Economics: "This is a testable hypothesis, one that is motivated by physics, and is supported by historical observations of the global economy. Summing wealth over all the world’s nations, 7.1 Watts is required to maintain every one thousand inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars of historically accumulated economic wealth. 

To be clear, this relationship is not between energy and yearly economic output or GDP, nor is it to the more restrictive view of wealth as physical capital that can be found in traditional economic models. Instead, the constant relates current energy consumption to the summation of production not just over one year -- the GDP -- but over all of time. This quantity has a fixed relationship to current energy consumption that is independent of the year that is considered. As of 2010, civilization was powered by about 17 trillion Watts of power which supported about 2352 trillion dollars of collective global wealth. In 1970, civilization was younger, and both quantities were smaller by more than half. In the interim, energy consumption and wealth grew in tandem, but at variable rates that increased slowly from 1.4% per year to 2.2% per year. "