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Clearly the existing climate crisis is a global problem.  If we examine “energy conservation” from a global perspective, keeping in mind a sense of “energy or climate justice”, we see the following:


This graph shows the per capita “electricity generation” versus the populations in several large zones spanning the planet.  The height and width, respectively, of each “block” are the average per person energy generation, or indeed energy use, annually, and the population for that zone.  The zones are arbitrary, however, “US & Canada” is included as representing “us”.  The two horizontal dashed lines signify, in green, half the per capita energy use for “us”, assumed as a conservation target, and, in mauve, the present average per capita energy use worldwide.  As long as “we” agree that no people should be limited to less energy than “we” use,  these two lines indicate that this 50% reduction in energy use by increasing conservation and efficiency in our zone would still require the planet to nearly double the available amount of per capita energy. 

Do “we” benefit from using so much energy?  Consider the correlation between “standard of living” and energy consumption.  The following graph shows the relationship between wealth or prosperity and access to electricity. 


The blue line in the graph represents an arbitrary, very modest per capita “prosperity” spending level of $20 per day (scaled according to local “buying power”).  The green line indicates the roughly linear relationship between wealth or “standard of living”, represented as per capita GDP and the per capita electricity use, each red dot indicating the nexus of these quantities in countries of population greater than 5 million.  One implication of this figure is that access to abundant electricity is a necessary condition for raising the Earth’s population out of poverty.  Another way to look at this graph is that there are no countries with predominantly poor populations whose people have broad access to electricity.  So, unless “we” agree that all should share electricity resources equally, the prospects for over half the world’s population of achieving “our” standard of living are severely limited.

Consider also that, in lieu of electricity, the “energy” used by people in the poorest countries may comprise the burning of wood for cooking and heat.  The following 2019 photo shows Rotarian F. Markel with her Guatemalan liaison, working to help villagers build simple stoves for cooking, to replace their traditional indoor cook fires, thereby reducing their use of firewood by 70% along with dramatically reducing the negative health impacts of soot and other toxins from open flames in the villagers’ homes. 


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The following figure shows the correlation between wealth and birth rate in countries with populations greater than 5 million. 


The red dots represent, for each of these countries, the per capita GDP, with the same blue line to indicate a “buying power” of $20/day, versus the average “number of children born to each woman”.  The graph shows that high birth rates (which coincide with high infant mortality) occur in countries with poorer populations (below the blue line) which, we saw above, correspond to countries whose populations have less access to electricity.  The green line indicates the approximate birthrate needed to sustain a given population, to the left of which there are few poor countries. 

So, given that prosperity is closely tied to access to abundant electricity, if we are committed to energy/climate justice then energy conservation will not contribute significantly to solving the global climate warming crisis.  

“The Magic Washing Machine” - A quaint illustration of the benefit of access to electricity is given in this TED Talk:


All data presented here can be found at:  These data are typically from 2019-2022.  Similar graphs exist which use 2013 data obtained from the same source. 

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