Energy Transformations and Post-Normal Science

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Public interest is central to future energy. A transition from fossil to renewable fuels would be likely to involve post-normal science, which is science constrained by uncertainty, urgency, high stakes, and public values. Future energy transformation will involve post-normal science because public interest will be central, and political will may be as limiting as engineering issues. This paper discusses cases of energy transformation in human and insect societies, showing general patterns in resource transitions, and in human responses to them. Understanding these general patterns allows scenarios to be developed describing some consequences of possible energy futures. The costs and benefits of these alternatives will have tangible differences for the interests of people whose lives are affected. Values, uncertainty, urgency, and high stakes all suggest the utility of a post-normal approach to future energy.

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