“Decoupling”: are we really so smart that we can do more with less? Apparently not: we can paint things in green, but it is not the same thing. But so is life and happy 2018 to everybody!
Decoupling looks like an obvious idea, isn’t it? After all, isn’t that true that we are becoming more efficient? Think of a modern LED light compared with an old lamp powered by a whale oil. We are now hundreds of times more efficient than we were and we also saved the whales (but, wait, did we…..?
). So, if we can do the same things with much less energy, then we could grow the economy without using more energy, solving the climate problem and also the depletion problem. It is part of the concept of “dematerialization” of the economy. Then we paint everything in green and all will be well in the best of worlds.
But there has to be something wrong with this idea, because it is just not happening, at least at the global scale. Just take a look at this image:
Note how closely related the GDP an the world’s energy consumption are. It is impressive because the GDP is measured in terms of money flows. So it seems that money, although not a measure of power in itself, is a proxy for power. The idea that “money is power” doesn’t seem to be just a metaphor.
Now, by carefully looking at the curve, we could say that we have been doing a little better in recent years. That is, we seem to have been able to produce a little more GDP for the same amount of energy.
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