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Why sustainable energy matters

Introduction

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Access to safe, clean and sustainable energy supplies is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity during the twenty-first century. This unit will survey the world’s present energy systems and their sustainability problems, together with some of the possible solutions to those problems and how these might emerge in practice.

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 industrial revolution, bringing unparalleled increases in affluence and productivity to millions of people throughout the world. As we enter the third millennium, however, there is a growing realisation that the world’s energy systems will need to be changed radically if they are to supply our energy needs sustainably on a long-term basis.

This introductory overview aims to survey, in very general terms, the world’s present energy systems and their sustainability problems, together with some of the possible solutions to those problems and how these might emerge in practice during the twenty-first century.

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 explore other courses we offer in this subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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