Episode 184: As our population changes, how will energy use change?

changes in energy use as population changes

Kelly Klima, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses how energy use changes with  a change in population.

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Learn More

Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by International Panel on Climate Change

Energy and Population by Joel Darmstadter, Washington and Lee University

International Energy Outlook by U.S. Energy Information Administration

Transcript

HOST: Does energy consumption change as our population changes? On this week’s Energy Bite, Kelly Klima, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

KELLY: Historically, we’ve seen total global energy use increase as population increases; in other words, adding a person increases total energy use. However, this is uneven throughout the world. Specifically, inhabitants of wealthy countries enjoy a greater rate of energy use, on average, than in developing countries. So, adding a person in say, Africa, has very little impact on energy use compared to adding a person to the U.S., by a factor of 20.

HOST: I’ve heard that as population increases, people move to cities; does this have an effect on energy use?

KELLY: Urbanization, where people move from the country to the city, is increasing. Today…over half of the world’s population lives in cities, with estimates of as many as 80% living in cities in 2050. On average, people living in cities often use less energy than their rural counterparts, in part due to the close proximity of resources as well as smaller living space. While this will help reduce our demand for energy, energy usage is predicted to continue to increase as population increases.

HOST: Do you think energy use will increase or decrease as population increases? (Yes, No, Maybe?) Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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