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5 5 Energy services and efficiency improvement

Energy efficiency measures can also play a part in reducing energy demand and greenhouse gases. At present, only about one-third of the energy content of the fuel we use emerges as ‘useful’ energy, the remaining two-thirds ends up as waste heat. The present regulatory regime compounds this problem by rewarding utilities for selling as much energy as possible regardless of energy efficiency or longevity of appliances.

One reason for the continuing inefficiency is that energy
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3 3 Present energy sources and sustainability

What are the principal energy sources at present, and how sustainable are they?

About 80 per cent of the world's energy is currently supplied by fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Present estimates suggest that, at current consumption rates, there are over 200-years' worth of coal left, 60-years' of gas, and 40-years' of oil. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, and their combustion releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, one of the main causes of the human-induced
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2 2 Definitions: energy, sustainability and the future

What do we mean by energy and sustainability, and what is meant by future?

The term energy has a long history but the standard scientific definition today is that energy is the capacity to do work. The term power is related to energy and its definition is power is the rate of doing work. The two are linked together by the simple formula

energy = power x time

The term sustainability is not so simple to define but there is perhaps no better
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1 1 Why sustainable energy matters

One of the greatest challenges facing humanity during the twenty-first century must surely be that of giving everyone on the planet access to safe, clean and sustainable energy supplies.

Throughout history, the use of energy has been central to the functioning and development of human societies. But during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, humanity learned how to harness the highly-concentrated forms of energy contained within fossil fuels. These provided the power that drove the
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Introduction

The search for sustainable energy will dominate the twenty-first century. This unit provides an introductory overview of the present energy systems and takes a brief look at where the world may find energy in the future – cleaner use of fossil fuels or renewable energy sources?

This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Energy for a sustainable future (T206) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explo
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Acknowledgements

The content acknowledged below is Proprietary (see terms and conditions). This content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this text.

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References

Blackmore, R. and Reddish, A. (eds.) (1996) Global Environmental Issues, Hodder & Stoughton in association with the Open University.
Blowers, A. (ed.) (1993) Planning for a Sustainable Environment, A report by the Town and Country Planning Association, London: Earthscan.
Brezet, J.C. and Van Hemel, C. (eds) (1997) Ecodesign, a promising approach to sustainable produc
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Glossary

Glossary itemDefinition
atomthe smallest amount of a chemical element that still retains the properties of that element.
biodiversitya contraction of ‘biological diversity’, in general it describes the variety of life on Earth and specifically the total sum of the genes, species, ha
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6.4 Technology and environment

At the start of this unit I asked a simple question: am I damaging the environment by using my fridge? I warned that it wasn't my intention to give a simple answer that we should all stop using refrigerators or all carry on regardless. Instead, we have explored the issue more widely, calling on a range of ideas and background information in the Case Studies. It is time to review some of the concepts we have been using.


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6.3 Sustainable development

The third approach to balancing human needs with environmental protection is to try to come to grips with what we mean by sustainability.

The most widely quoted definition of sustainable development is the one used by Gro Harlem Brundtland in the highly influential book Our Common Future (Brundtland, 1987):

‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present with
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6.2 The hierarchy of human needs

A second approach is to look at the human needs and wants from a more theoretical perspective. One such model was developed in the 1950s and 1960s by Abraham Maslow. Although it exists in many variants it is generally known as Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. In the most common interpretations it places the fundamental material needs of survival, such as food, shelter and safety at the base of a triangle, rising through social needs of belonging in human society, to
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4.4 Discussion

In this second case study, I have described two different trends in energy use by cold appliances over the last few decades. On the one hand the efficiency with which appliances use electrical energy has improved but, in spite of this, their consumption of electricity has increased significantly in recent decades. Since 2000 consumption has started to decline, probably as a result of the introduction of minimum energy standards. The trend will only continue if we demand and use the most energ
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3.3 Greenfreeze: the Greens fight back

Some campaigners were not convinced by the arguments of refrigerator manufacturers and suppliers (who also happened to own some patents for HCFCs and HFCs) that the only solution, in the short to medium term, was to use the transitional compounds. They tried to demonstrate that there were practical alternatives. A group of scientists working with Greenpeace International designed a domestic refrigerator based on the use of hydrocarbons, using a mix of propane and isobutane for the refrigerant
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2.2 We are part of nature

Take a few minutes to look around at your surroundings before you read on. What do you see? Obviously this depends on where you are at the moment: at home, at work, or perhaps travelling in between, or maybe you have the misfortune to be laid up in hospital. Possibly like me you are at home. I am fortunate to have a study where I do much of my writing and you won't be surprised to hear that I'm looking at a computer screen at the moment. What else can I see? Books and bookshelves, furniture o
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5.8 Review of criticisms of international rights

Activity 1

Review the four criticisms of rights at the international level discussed in the previous sections.

  1. Identify which of these criticisms are objections in principle to the discourse of
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3.4 Debates about rights

There are at least four big debates about modern individual rights. The aim in putting these before you is to introduce these hotly contested issues to which there are no conclusive answers, but which help frame discussions about human rights. Considering these debates is designed to help you weigh up the different arguments and form your own opinions about the meaning and effectiveness of rights claims.

The first debate concerns how our rights are grounded. One view is that our
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • understand the different interpretations of internationally recognised notions of rights and justice;

  • give examples of implementing justice in an international sphere;

  • investigate questions in international studies;

  • analyse the different agencies of change in the international system.


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1.2.3 Climate change: survival at stake

Despite efforts to define it, the boundary between land and sea is constantly changing. In the long run the combination of rising sea level, sinking land and possible major storms, such as the one that devastated the Essex coast in 1953 (Figure 16), indicates a battle that the sea must ultimately win.

Figure 16
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3.2.2 The protection of intellectual property: the costs of TRIPS

Apart from the internal redistribution of income resulting from greater exposure to the world economy, the effects of one of the UR agreements in particular have achieved a certain notoriety because the agreement clearly imposes huge costs on farmers and consumers in developing countries, to the benefit of corporations in developed countries. This is the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which strengthens international rules governing patents, tradema
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1.6 Defining global markets

Global markets for manufactured goods, as opposed to, say, primary commodities such as oil and timber, arose largely in the second half of the twentieth century as trade between countries intensified. The lowering of transport costs and the relative fall in trade barriers enabled firms in one country to compete wit
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