Technology has been a provider of benefits directly improving man’s lot. These benefits have usually gone first to those already at the top of society, but increased production has gradually spread them to those lower down. Today much of our technology is serving affluence rather than basic needs, yet worldwide poverty remains a dominant human problem. Perpetual technological growth is still seen by many as the solution to this problem. But we no longer operate in a world of infinite reservoirs—infinite sources and sinks. Though energy sources may prove to be virtually infinite, energy sinks and pollutant sinks are finite. Engineers have a responsibility to plan for such limitations. The capacity of the atmosphere as a heat sink remains an ultimate geophysical limit to energy release by man. Various writers have estimated the order of magnitude of this limit. Some of these estimates are discussed. Possible modes of approach to a limit are considered in the light of current trends, published predictions, and the problem of meeting human needs. It is found that U. S. planning for an orderly and equitable transition to a fixed-energy-rate economy is already overdue.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.