Energy forecasting and atmospheric CO2 perspectives: two worlds ignore each other


  • Dieter M. Imboden Swiss Federal Institute of Technology


global primary energy demand, CO2 emission, climate, de-carbonization, per capita energy utilization, 2000 Watt Society, sustainable energy use


Macroeconomic models predict that the global primary energy demand will increase by a factor of 2–4 by the year 2050. In contrast, climate analyses made by the IPCC claim that CO2 emissions in 2050 should not exceed the values of 1990 or even be 20% lower. By 2100 emissions should be reduced to one third of the present value. The common wisdom to deal with these opposing trends is the concept of de-carbonization, i.e., the continuous decrease of the carbon emission per unit energy utilization. De-carbonization rates needed to compensate for the growing demand while keeping the CO2-emissions constant should at least be 2% per year compared to actual values of 0.3%. The potential of different de-carbonization rate measures is analyzed. It is argued that the goal can only be met if per capita energy utilization in the industrialized countries is significantly reduced from their typical level of 5000–10 000 W. As a realistic target we suggest 2000 Watt per capita, the present global average. This would leave expansion capacity for the developing countries which presently have per capita demand between 300 and 1000 W. Based on the example of Switzerland it is shown that the two key issues to attain this goal are the quality of buildings and the demand for mobility. It is concluded that the conversion of the present energy system into a 2000 W system is neither limited by technology nor by finances but by the acceptance of a new life style in which energy is used more efficiently and more intelligently than today.