Human Dimensions of Global Warming



Energy use and consumption produce more GHG emissions than any other realm of human endeavor. A brief look at the socioeconomic drivers of energy use and consumption helps explain some of the reasons why. Current technologies for generating energy focus on GHG-intensive fossil fuels; the economic system favors producing the greatest amount of energy at the lowest cost and does not account for the environmental costs of energy production; political and legal institutions promote and protect fossil-fuel industries and typically fail to foster alternative energy sources adequately; and Western lifestyles are energy intensive but many non-Westerners aspire to a Western lifestyle. Add to that the exponential growth of Earth’s human population and it is no wonder that GHG emissions continue to grow rapidly.

This lesson addresses GHG emissions from the energy sector and the potential for mitigating them. It starts by broadly introducing the sector and its GHG emissions. Next, it covers the consumption of energy globally, demonstrating the continued strong demand for it. The following section paints a more detailed picture of GHG emissions from the energy sector, concentrating on CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Then the focus turns to the potential for decreasing emissions from the sector and pays special attention to the possibility that carbon capture and storage is the “silver bullet” the fossil-fuel industry is looking for. The presentation ends by drawing a couple of conclusions about GHG emissions from the energy sector.

What will we learn?

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • name the main sectors responsible for anthropogenic GHG emissions and where the energy sector fits into this scheme;
  • differentiate mobile, stationary, and fugitive sources of GHG emissions and give examples of each;
  • discuss the growth in energy use by global region, by fuel type, and per capita by country;
  • describe the growth in GHG emissions from fossil fuel consumption and explain GHG emissions from electricity-generation systems;
  • determine the likelihood of climate change mitigation in the short and long terms, including the potential of carbon capture and storage;
  • utilize transitions of logic and thought to promote flow in your writing.

What is due for Lesson 4?

Lesson 4 will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found within this lesson.

Complete the following steps to complete Lesson 4:

  • Work through Lesson 4 in this web site.
  • Complete the Required Reading Assignments.
  • Complete the Writing Symposium Quiz in Canvas.
  • Complete the Lesson 4 Reading Reflections in Canvas.


If you have questions, please feel free to post them to the Ask a Question about Lesson 4 forum. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help a classmate.