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Entropy, Pollution and Environmental Degradation

Geoffrey P. Glasby
Ambio
Vol. 17, No. 5 (1988), pp. 330-335
Published by: Springer on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4313489
Page Count: 6
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Abstract

Man uses energy to produce order. The second law of thermodynamics requires that the energy used be degraded and that increased disorder (or entropy) results. This disorder can be thought of as environmental degradation and has been steadily increasing as a consequence of industrialization. World energy consumption is presently 10 TW which leads to an entropy increase of the order of 4TW. In addition, factors such as removal of vegetation cover result in an additional natural energy input removing soil cover. The total energy input devoted to environmental degradation as a result of man's activities is therefore substantial. This article challenges the view that environmental degradation (disorder) can be eliminated by better management. Rather, it emphasizes that environmental degradation is a corollary of human energy consumption and therefore of economic activity. This view is of importance in assessing the possible extent of environmental change in the Twenty-First Century and the remedies required to ameliorate the situation.

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