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View Diary: The End of Wall Street: a Steady-State Economy (79 comments)

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  •  there is a third physical magnitude that has to be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, semiot, kait

    ... held constant, which is throughput of energy through the system.  

    As a generalization, an economy is a dissipative structure that creates localized syntropy within its boundary, by either a) drawing energy from a prevailing entropy-flow (such as the sunlight that strikes the Earth, or the radioactive decay of fission fuels), or b) increasing the entropy outside of its boundary (such as by converting crude oil into "thermodynamic work performed" and "waste heat + CO2 emitted").  

    There are equilibria of energy throughputs that cannot be exceeded without cooking the planet one way or another.  For example consider a "100% renewable" energy system that ran solely on solar.  With sufficient growth, it will result in the darkening of the Earth's surface to absorb more sunlight than otherwise, and if that trend continues to its logical conclusion, the result will be the capture of far more sunlight and dissipation of far more heat (thermodynamic waste) into the system.  

    When that sunlight is converted to thermodynamic work + waste heat output, the waste heat has to go "somewhere."  For any given concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, there is a limit to the Earth's ability to dissipate heat back into space through radiation from the dark side of the planet.  Beyond that limit, there will be generalized heat gain.  

    The limit can be adjusted upward somewhat, by reducing the concentrations of greenhouse gases, thereby enabling an increase in dissipation of heat at night.  However even there, one eventually reaches a lower limit of greenhouse gases from essential or irreducible natural processes, and thus an upper limit to the ability to capture and utilize solar energy.  

    Therefore ultimately there is a limit to the throughput of energy through the biosphere, of which the economy is a subset.  

    Energy, as well as population of humans and population of artifacts, must be treated as a steady-state quantity.  

    "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 05:29:19 PM PDT

    •  Great stuff (0+ / 0-)

      I've been trying to get my head around a concept of a global system of systems.  It all starts with the energy inputs to the Earth.

      Nearly all energy that we use is derived from solar energy.  The only partial exception is geo-thermal.

      It's been a week since I first read this diary and thread and I'm still digesting it all.

      Kudos to barath and to you for your comments.

      - "You're Hells Angels, then? What chapter are you from?"

      by Hoya90 on Sat Oct 15, 2011 at 12:22:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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