A scientist, in a provoking study, has argued that global warming might just be unstoppable.
According to Tim Garrett, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences, University of Utah, rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - the major cause of global warming - cannot be stabilized unless the world's economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.
"It looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in carbon dioxide emission rates," said Garrett.
The study, which is based on the concept that physics can be used to characterize the evolution of civilization, indicates that energy conservation or efficiency doesn't really save energy, but instead spurs economic growth and accelerated energy consumption.
"Stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions at current rates will require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually - approximately one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day," Garrett said.
"Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy," he added.
Garrett said that his study's key finding "is that accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor."
That "constant" is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar.
So, if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, "each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption," Garrett said.
Garrett tested his theory and found this constant relationship between energy use and economic production at any given time by using United Nations statistics for global GDP (gross domestic product), U.S. Department of Energy data on global energy consumption during1970-2005, and previous studies that estimated global economic production as long as 2,000 years ago.
Then, he investigated the implications for carbon dioxide emissions.
"Economists think you need population and standard of living to estimate productivity," he said.
"In my model, all you need to know is how fast energy consumption is rising. The reason why is because there is this link between the economy and rates of energy consumption, and it's just a constant factor," he added.
"By finding this constant factor, the problem of forecasting global economic growth is dramatically simpler. There is no need to consider population growth and changes in standard of living because they are marching to the tune of the availability of energy supplies," said Garrett.
To Garrett, that means the acceleration of CO2 emissions is unlikely to change soon because our energy use today is tied to society's past economic productivity.