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World Economic and Social Survey 2011

The Great Green Technological Transformation

image of World Economic and Social Survey 2011
This survey explains why the Great Green Technological Transformation will have to be fully realized in developing countries if they are to achieve food security and rural development, minimize the damage from natural hazards and extreme disasters partly induced by climate change, and transform their economies to beat destitution and create productive jobs. Avoiding the climate change tipping point will require fundamental shifts in existing technologies to transform manufacturing, agriculture, living arrangements and infrastructure and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make more efficient use of natural resources and derivatives, create less waste, preserve biodiversity and reduce social disparities. The survey assesses options and policies to facilitate a new technological revolution, and the challenges societies face in achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction.

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The clean energy technological transformation

Energy technologies have been greatly shaping society and the environment for the past two centuries. In fact, modern civilizations are largely dependent on fossil fuel energy technologies, which make high-density urban settlements possible. While technological progress has eliminated many problems, it has also added new and often unexpected ones (Grübler, 1998; Diamond, 2005). Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) arising from the combustion of fossil fuels have been the main cause of anthropogenic global warming. All energy technologies, whether they are fossil-based or not, consume resources, use land and pollute air, water and the atmosphere. Energy use has reached a scale at which planetary boundaries are being breached for a range of essential Earth-system processes, including in terms of global warming and biodiversity loss, which is likely to lead to catastrophic environmental change (Rockström and others, 2009).

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