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Global Energy Transitions (GET) Project

PI: Wolf Schäfer

GET will use historical research to draw lessons from past technological developments and their societal and environmental impacts to prepare contemporary decision makers for the challenges of today’s new technologies.

GET investigates the demographic consequences of two fundamental energy transitions: the Neolithic transformation from hunting and gathering to farming, which unlocked the energy potentials of plants and animals, as well as the Industrial Revolution, which enabled the current high-energy civilization based on fossil fuels. Both transitions raised earth’s carrying capacity from less than 107 for hunter-gatherers to 109 for farmers, and then again to an estimated 1010 for the global industrial economy.

GET assumes that a third global energy transition that would raise the carrying capacity of the planet from 1010 to 1011 is impossible; that humankind has to learn to live within the carrying capacity and socionatural framework provided by the Industrial Revolution; and that a historically informed science and technology policy can contribute to the sustainability of an industrial world civilization of ca. ten billion people based on currently known resources and available technoscience.

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