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Energy and sustainability, from the point of view of environmental physics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2015

Micha Tomkiewicz*
Department of Physics, Brooklyn College of CUNY, Brooklyn, NY 11210, USA; Ph.D Program in Physics and the Ph.D Program in Chemistry, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, New York, NY 10016, USA
a)Address all correspondence to Micha Tomkiewicz at
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The author defines sustainability as the condition that must be developed globally for humanity to flourish until technology advances extraterrestrial travel that will allow migration to another planet once conditions here deteriorate. The emphasis is on anthropogenic climate change caused primarily by changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere due to dominant use of fossil fuels.

This review is focused on climate change. It is based on the understanding that anthropogenic climate change is caused primarily by changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere due to dominant use of fossil fuels. Stabilization of the climate requires energy transition from business as usual scenarios to a mixture of noncarbon based energy sources. The starting point for discussing this transition is the so-called Kaya–IPAT identity, which parametrizes the transition in terms impact (I) driven by population growth (P), increase in the standard of living (A), the required energy intensity, and the transition to different sources of energy (T), i.e., both “hard” and “soft” science parameters. Important issues that are not explicitly part of the identity are the differentiated requirements of developed and developing countries and the required duration of such transition. Such a transition inevitably involves winners and losers and is, thus prone to lead to political conflicts on local and global scale. Such a transition brings also opportunities for future growth. The review highlights some of the specific opportunities that such a transition brings to material science.

Copyright © Materials Research Society 2015 

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