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What will the world look like 50yrs from now

  1. Oct 1, 2015 #1

    wolram

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    So far as i know we have no new energy sources so this could be bad, is energy usage going up or down ?
    Surly the world and its populace depend only on energy what will become of us in the next 50yrs
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2015 #2
    Nuclear power, solar power, wind power, wave power.. sheesh, take your pick..but nooo, we have to burn fossil fuels, because some people get too rich because of that.
     
  4. Oct 1, 2015 #3

    Ryan_m_b

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    image.jpeg

    This. This is what the earth will look like in 50 years.
     
  5. Oct 1, 2015 #4

    phinds

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    Predictions of the future are notoriously unreliable so your guess is as good as anyones.
     
  6. Oct 1, 2015 #5

    Geofleur

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    The past is often, though not always, a good predictor of the future. Mankind will probably continue to burn fossil fuels and global warming will continue. Once those fuels run out, it is unclear whether there will be anything viable to replace them. There are a lot of people in the world, using an awful lot of energy. In other words, there is cause for concern.
     
  7. Oct 1, 2015 #6

    wolram

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    But will energy usage plateau in the near future or will it run out of control?
     
  8. Oct 1, 2015 #7
    False, there will be less sea ice :biggrin:
     
  9. Oct 2, 2015 #8
    I personally believe both Greg and Ryan are wrong, based solely on mathematical grounds: the butterfly effect. What it'll look like in 50 years? The best I can say is that because of non-linear effects, we simply cannot linearly extrapolate current conditions or predictions very far into the future: the smallest of changes can have the most dramatic effect. What about a gamma-ray burst? How about reaching a tipping-point in climate change with ice sheets beginning to scrape-away all existence of humanity in the upper latitudes? Host of other things also: Super volcanos, asteroids, super-bugs, etc.

    I believe a more accurate question would have been: "What do you think the world will look like?"
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
  10. Oct 2, 2015 #9

    DaveC426913

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    But these are all edge-cases. Low probability.

    If we'd asked this question fifty years ago, the answer would have been: nothing happened.
    Same with 100 years ago, 150, 200, etc. In fact, you could go back to the dawn of civilization in 50-year increments and none of the things you mentioned changed the world significantly.

    The overall state of the world is not chaotic. Butterly Effect does not describe it well. In fact, many global processes (with the notable exception of global warming) are negative feedback loops, rather than positive feedback loops.
     
  11. Oct 2, 2015 #10

    Nugatory

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    There are two trends working in opposite directions here.
    On the one hand, energy consumption per unit of economic output is falling, especially in the developed world (for example, LEDs and internet connections provide many of the economic benefits as incandescent lights and a daily commute at a much lower energy cost). On the other hand, total economic output is rising; over the past two decades, the fraction of the world's population living on less than one dollar per day has fallen from 35% to about 14% and this trend shows no sign of slowing any time soon.

    It is very unlikely that energy usage will "run out of control", as increases in energy consumption not matched by increases in production will cause price increases and scarcities that will depress economic output and reduce energy usage. It is also very unlikely that energy usage will "plateau" as that would require a bizarre economic stasis in which increases in world economic output are exactly balanced by increases in energy efficiency. By far the most likely outcome is that energy use and economic output will both grow gradually over time; the exact relationship between the two rates will be governed by market forces; new technologies for production and efficiency will be introduced as they become cost-effective and together these will ensure that the world economy has the energy it needs to function but not a lot to waste.

    To me, the absolute level of energy usage is not nearly as interesting as the number of hours of human labor it takes to earn the cost of a megawatt-hour. A related question (but not unique to energy production - this is the "externality" problem that economists have been wrestling with since their science was invented) is whether the cost of producing that megawatt-hour is fully reflected in the price.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
  12. Oct 2, 2015 #11

    wolram

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    Thanks for your on topic post Nuatory, i found it most enlightening.
     
  13. Oct 2, 2015 #12

    phinds

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    An excellent analysis Nugatory. I do think that the external costs of energy production will likely never be borne directly by the consumers of such energy, at least as long as we are using fossil fuels. The health costs of such use are way outside the scope of energy companies' pricing models.
     
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