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Biosphere, the Great Acceleration, and the Global Crisis of Unsustainable Energy Utilization

Updated: Oct 24, 2018

John Schramski

Associate Professor

University of Georgia

Athens , GA, United States


Accounting for the Laws of Thermodynamics, the updated Great Acceleration socio-economic and biophysical reaction curves published by Steffen et al. in 2015 require additional clarification including in particular the role of primary energy consumption and also the key differences afforded to the resultant Earth system biophysical reactions. When these clarifications are made, the Great Acceleration more clearly defines a system in exponential decline where humans are perhaps focusing on the wrong metrics. This systems-level approach properly recognizes humans as prime movers and their primary energy consumption as the sole enabler driving the remaining socio-economic activities including for example water consumption, transportation, fertilizer consumption and gross domestic product. Then, faced with an exponential forcing function, the Earth’s reactions are also exponential as expected. However, the Earth system reactions are also not all equal where any biomass losses like biodiversity and phytomass losses or declining marine fish captures are far more serious than rising CO2, methane or NO levels. When the Great Acceleration is quantified and clarified on an energy centric perspective, consequences to the near future of humankind are real and eminent. An updated assessment of Earth system stability is provided with this new perspective.

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