Global Population Growth and Energy Consumption

For a variety of reasons that will be covered later in the course, the number of human beings on Earth has been rising extremely quickly for many decades. In fact, over a period of 50 years, from 1960 to 2010, the human population grew from 3 billion to 6.9 billion. This means that the population doubled in that time – plus and additional 900 million people.

Let’s put this population growth into perspective. The world’s population increased by 3.9 billion people from 1960 to 2010, and the entire U.S. population is about 325 million. Therefore, that’s the same thing as adding the entire population of the U.S. to the Earth twelve times, and in just 50 years! Try to imagine how many more people that is that need to be housed, fed, clothed, etc.

So, there are far more people on Earth than just a few years ago, but that’s not the only “problem”. To add to this population explosion, there has also been a rapid growth in global wealth and consumerism. In other words, there are more people, and they use/own a lot more stuff. Of course, there are still billions of poor people around the world, but overall, humans use/own a lot more things, and we must use natural resources to create, transport, maintain, and run these things, etc.

A good example that makes this clear is the increase in the number of cars, trucks, and buses on Earth relative to population growth. From 1960 to 2010, the human population grew from 3 billion to 6.9 billion, but the number of cars, trucks, and buses grew from 130 million to about 1,000 million (1 billion). This means the population increased about 2.3 times, while the number of cars, trucks, and buses increased about 7 times. It takes a lot natural resources to create, transport, maintain, and run these cars, trucks, and buses.

More people with more money means we make and use more lights, air conditioners, washing machines, clothes dryers, hair dryers, water heaters, TVs, stoves and ovens, microwave ovens, refrigerators, computers, phones, boats, motorcycles and scooters, chainsaws, lawnmowers, swimming pools, clothes, and so on, and we make and eat a lot more food, too.

In this exercise you’ll visualize the growth of the human population and the increase of its energy consumption over 60 years. By doing so, you’ll be able to see that energy consumption has been growing faster than the population has been growing, especially since the late 1990s.

Note that world energy consumption is the total amount of energy used by all of human civilization, and includes all energy harnessed from every energy source. This is sometimes expressed as Millions of Metric Tons of Oil Equivalent (the amount of oil that we’d need to burn to produce a given amout of energy), but here it will be expressed as Thousands of Terawatt-hours (TWh). This would be the amount of electricty produced if we converted all the energy we use into electricity.

Note that 1 TWh is the same thing as 1 Billion Watt-hours, and that 1,000 TWh is the same thing as 1 Trillion watt-hours. That’s enough electricity to run a 100 watt light bulb for 1,141,552 years. Yes, over a million years!

Now, use the data on the next page to complete the blank line graph on the third page, and submit the graph by the posted deadline. Remember to watch video Making Graphs before making yours, and to follow the submission guidelines. It can be found in the “START HERE” folder under course files.

Again, this should be a line graph, and no credit will be given for any other type of graph. Also note that this must be completed by hand, not using software/a computer. Print out the blank graph provided below and do the rest by hand or you will receive no credit for the assignment.

World Population in Billions  3  3.3  3.7  4.1  4.5  4.9  5.3
Energy Consumption in 1000 TWh  42  50  58  68  77  84  94
World Population in Billions  5.7  6.1  6.5  6.9  7.3  7.7 
Energy Consumption in 1000 TWh  101  110  122  138  156  174 

Unit 1 Graphing Exercise 1

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