According to the study conducted by Professor Emeritus Richard Eckaus of the MIT Department of Economics and Ian Sue Wing of Boston University, instead of relying on technology as the most efficient tool for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or solving the global energy crisis, it may actually cause increased emissions rather than control them.
"We found that, in spite of increasing energy prices, technological change has not been responsible for much reduction in energy use, and that it may have had the reverse effect," said Eckaus.
The researchers studied the periods 1958 to 1996 and 1980 to 1996 and projected from 2000 to 2050.
Based on their findings from the past 50 years, and adjusting for a more realistic expectation for technological changes, they found that the rates of growth for energy use and emissions may accelerate from the historical rates of 2.2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
"The rates of growth could be higher by a half percent or more, which becomes significant when compounded over 50 years," Eckaus says.
An example of the negative effects of technological change due to global warming has been illustrated by US steelmaking.
Though steelmakers' furnaces are now electrical, thus reducing coal use at the plant, coal still generates some of the electricity that powers the factory furnace, resulting in more CO2 emissions.
"There is no reason to think technology has the potential for reducing energy use while meeting the tests of economics," said Eckaus. "The only way out is to make energy more expensive as people will then use less of it," he added.