Friday, April 09, 2010

Energy Poverty is Being Stuck 125,000 Years in the Past

Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

Andy Revkin has posted several commenter responses to his great piece at the new Dot Earth 2.0, declaring that a global, "sustained energy quest" should be "an organizing principle if humanity wants to avoid hard knocks in the next few decades."

One response, from Hugh Whalan of New York provides a powerful way to envision the realities of energy poverty and it's central importance to the global energy quest of the 21st century:

More than 125,000 years ago, your ancestors discovered fire. With it came a source of heat, warmth, and light. Unfortunately, for 1 in 3 people living today, very little has changed. This is energy poverty.

Really let that sink in - one third of the world's population lives like this.

Addressing energy poverty is a key step to alleviating poverty - with the IEA noting that an additional 700 million people need to gain access to modern energy services by 2015 if the UN's millennium development poverty alleviation goal is to be met (halving world poverty).

Just as importantly, energy poverty is a huge contributor to climate change, as those stuck in energy poverty are forced to rely on fuels like kerosene and firewood which caused enormous amounts of pollution.

Significantly expanding green energy access to developing countries is a simple solution - addressing poverty and reducing emissions - with the possibility that we can set developing countries on a 'clean energy' path to development.

It won't be easy. It won't be cheap. But importantly companies are starting to show that delivering clean energy to billions of poor can be profitable.

Energy is important to everything. Policy makers, governments and the general public need to be more aware of this because we all too easily take access to energy for granted.

See also:

"New Digs for Dot Earth 2.0"

"Revkin Gets Real on the Climate Challenge"

"To Make Poverty History, Make Clean Energy Cheap"

"Thoughts on Ending Energy Poverty and Copenhagen's Zero-Sum Game"

"IEA Report Confirms, Clean and Cheap Energy Needed to Power Global Development"

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