Energy

Energy : Perspectives, Problems, and Prospects

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Description

The book offers a comprehensive account of how the world evolved to its present state in which humans now exercise a powerful, in many cases dominant, influence for global environmental change. It outlines the history that led to this position of dominance, in particular the role played by our increasing reliance on fossil sources of energy, on coal, oil and natural gas, and the problems that we are now forced to confront as a result of this history. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is greater now than at any time over at least the past 650,000 years with prospects to increase over the next few decades to levels not seen since dinosaurs roamed the Earth 65 million years ago. Comparable changes for evident also for methane and nitrous oxide and for a variety of other constituents of the atmosphere including species such as the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons for which there are no natural analogues. Increases in the concentrations of so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are responsible for important changes in global and regional climate with consequences for the future of global society which, though difficult to predict in detail, are potentially catastrophic for a world poorly equipped to cope. Changes of climate in the past were repetitively responsible for the demise of important civilizations. These changes, however, were generally natural in origin in contrast to the changes now underway for which humans are directly responsible. The challenge is to transition to a new energy economy in which fossil fuels will play a much smaller role. We need as a matter of urgency to cut back on emissions of climate altering gases such as carbon dioxide while at the same time reducing our dependence on unreliable, potentially disruptive, though currently indispensable, sources of energy such as oil, the lifeblood of the global transportation system. The book concludes with a discussion of options for a more sustainable energy future, highlighting the potential for contributions from wind, sun, biomass, geothermal and nuclear, supplanting currently unsustainable reliance on coal, oil and natural gas.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 424 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 635.03g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 10 color halftones, 25 color line illustrations, 15 black and white line illustrations.
  • 0195386116
  • 9780195386110
  • 1,726,606

About Michael B. McElroy

Michael McElroy is the Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Science at Harvard University. His research covers topics ranging from planetary atmospheres to more recently extensive studies of the Earth's environment with particular attention to the impact of human activity including options for policy responses.show more

Review quote

"With scientific depth and beautiful writing, Professor McElroy delivers the benefits of his wide-ranging teaching and research to readers of this book. His lively narrative traces the human uses of energy from early human history to today's dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas. With the help of realistic, telling, and well-chosen examples, he drives home the scale of our current dependence and sketches pathways to the future. A very important and engaging book!" -- Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences"This is a book that makes it possible for a reader either to drill down in a dozen specialized areas (with never a dry hole), or to look down from 50,000 feet in order to see the grand pattern (without haze). Given the tremendous amount of information presented, it is especially useful that the author pauses repeatedly to summarize. It is also very important (and rare) that he cleanly separates his personal opinions from the factual content. As a result, it is possible to trust this book for the tremendous quality of its information. This is what they used to call a magisterial work. I would call it a grand tour in the company of a learned guide." -- Leon Fuerth, former National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore and Research Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University"This is a fascinating and beautifully written book on energy, the 'lifeblood of human enterprise.' McElroy has accomplished nothing less than unifying the two cultures of the sciences and the humanities." -- Yuk Ling Yung, Professor of Planetary Science, California Institute of Technology "With scientific depth and beautiful writing, Professor McElroy delivers the benefits of his wide-ranging teaching and research to readers of this book. His lively narrative traces the human uses of energy from early human history to today's dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas. With the help of realistic, telling, and well-chosen examples, he drives home the scale of our current dependence and sketches pathways to the future. A very important and engaging book!" -- Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences"This is a book that makes it possible for a reader either to drill down in a dozen specialized areas (with never a dry hole), or to look down from 50,000 feet in order to see the grand pattern (without haze). Given the tremendous amount of information presented, it is especially useful that the author pauses repeatedly to summarize. It is also very important (and rare) that he cleanly separates his personal opinions from the factual content. As a result, it is possible to trust this book for the tremendous quality of its information. This is what they used to call a magisterial work. I would call it a grand tour in the company of a learned guide." -- Leon Fuerth, former National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore and Research Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University"This is a fascinating and beautifully written book on energy, the 'lifeblood of human enterprise.' McElroy has accomplished nothing less than unifying the two cultures of the sciences and the humanities." -- Yuk Ling Yung, Professor of Planetary Science, California Institute of Technologyshow more

Table of contents

PREFACE ; ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ; 1. Introduction ; 2. From Hunter Gatherers to English Factories ; 3. Energy: what is it and how do we measure it? ; 4. Wood, Photosynthesis and the Carbon Cycle ; 5. Coal: Origin, History and Problems ; 6. Oil: Properties, Origin, History, Problems and Prospects ; 7. Natural Gas: Origin, History and Prospects ; 8. Energy from Water and Wind ; 9. Nuclear Power ; 10. Steam Power ; 11. Electricity ; 12. Automobiles Trucks and the Internal Combustion Engine ; 13. The Challenge of Global Climate Change ; 14. Prospects for Carbon Capture and Sequestration ; 15. Ethanol from biomass: can it substitute for gasoline? ; 16. Current Patterns of Energy Use ; 17. Vision for a Low Carbon Energy Future ; BIBLIOGRAPHY ; INDEXshow more

Rating details

6 ratings
3.16 out of 5 stars
5 17% (1)
4 33% (2)
3 17% (1)
2 17% (1)
1 17% (1)
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