NARRATOR: Throughout human history, access to energy resources has often meant the difference between illness and health, poverty and wealth, and illiteracy and education.
So it's not surprising that today, the world's energy use is growing even faster than its population. Global energy consumption has doubled since the early 1970s, and experts predict it will expand another 50% by 2035.
Unfortunately, this rising demand poses a couple of major problems. The first is that most of the energy sources we rely on today won’t last forever.
Coal, oil, and natural gas supply about 80% of the energy we currently use. And while these fuels continue to form through natural processes, we're using them much faster than they're being created. In the U.S. alone, we burn more than a hundred thousand tons of coal and nearly 800,000 barrels of oil every hour.
So unless we develop large-scale alternatives, when these fuel sources run out, our power supply will run out too.
If that weren't enough, burning fossil fuels releases a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide. And all this CO2 is affecting Earth’s climate.
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. As they do, they act like insulating blankets, allowing sunlight to pass through to Earth's surface, while slowing the release of heat back into space.
The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the warmer our planet becomes. And this will affect everything from sea levels and ocean currents to weather patterns and seasons, leading to more natural disasters and potential food shortages in our future.
These problems of skyrocketing energy demand, dwindling resources, and increasing environmental consequences are very real. And scientists agree, it's not a question of if, but when these problems will catch up with us.
So, the race is on to find new energy sources and innovative technologies. It’s our best hope for a sustainable future.
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