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Electrification: A Prescription for the Ills of Atmospheric CO2

Ralph M. Rotty

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Volume 90 / Number 4 / August 1985 / Pages 467-474


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The pattern of global electrification suggests that the global discharge of CO2 to the atmosphere is less, and will be increasingly less, than would be the case without the continuing shift toward use of electrical energy. Data show that the world has been moving steadily toward greater electrification. Each year electricity is used to perform a larger number of tasks, and the fraction of energy used in the form of electricity has increased whether in “good times” or in “bad times.” Scenarios that incorporate technological development, and therefore growth in electrification, yield slower growth in emissions of CO2, and consequently slower accumulation in the atmosphere. Increased world electrification slows the growth in CO2 for two reasons: 1. electrification may reduce total energy demand 2. electrification presents opportunities to supply the energy without using CO2-producing fuels. The large potential for slowing atmospheric CO2 accumulation by generating electricity with nonfossil technologies is demonstrated by the scenarios presented here.

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