Energy Use by Wealthy Nations Could Be Slashed While Preserving Well-Being, Study Finds

New York City midtown illuminated at dusk
New York City midtown illuminated at dusk. Bim / E+ / Getty Images

Wealthy nations could dramatically cut energy use without compromising their well-being, a new study from Stanford University published Tuesday in Ecosphere finds.

Researchers measured energy consumption and well-being benchmarks across 140 countries and found 75 gigajoules (GJ) is the ‘magic number’ above which quality of life generally stops improving.

“That suggests to me that we could nudge energy use downwards in a bunch of hyper-consuming countries and not just make a more equitable world, but perhaps make ourselves healthier and happier,” lead author Rob Jackson told NPR.

Energy consumption is wildly unequal worldwide — people in the U.S. use 284 GJ per year, more than 23 times the average person in Senegal.

As reported by NPR:

Globally, around 759 million people lived without electricity and 2.6 billion without clean cooking fuel in 2019, according to the World Bank. That comes at an enormous human cost. Around 4 million people die each year from conditions caused by indoor air pollution from cooking fires, according to the World Health Organization. Access to electricity is critical for providing medical services and powering modern economies.

For a deeper dive:


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