Written by Dana Nuccitelli
Like an earthquake rumbling down the San Andreas Fault, Jeff Gibbs’ and Michael Moore’s controversial film “Planet of the Humans” tore a rift through the environmental movement, a rift its leaders would not yearn for in an election year. After activists have spent decades painstakingly building popular support for climate policies focused on developing and deploying low-carbon technologies, the film and its defenders dismiss these as false solutions, saying the focus should instead be on curbing population, consumption, and economic growth.
Both those factions agree that, as the IPCC has concluded, human civilization must cut its carbon emissions to zero within a few decades to avert a climate crisis. Is there a scientific way to determine which group is right about the best way to achieve that goal? As a matter of fact, there is.
In 1990, Japanese energy economist Yoichi Kaya developed a simple and elegant formula called the Kaya Identity that can help answer the question: F is human carbon emissions, P is human population, G is economic activity as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), and E is energy consumption.
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