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Over much of the globe, population growth and a rapid rise in wealth are driving energy use up at a staggering rate. Based on realistic projections, it could quadruple this century.

In this editorial, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John P. Holdren, argues that the problem of sustainable energy supply is the most essential challenge to humans this century.

Energy supply is intertwined with national security, environmental problems — from indoor air quality to global climate change — and the capacity to meet basic human needs and fuel economic growth.

We need to shift from our current dependence on oil to a more sustainable path combining improved energy efficiency, reduced population growth and bigger public and private investment in technologies such as nuclear power, biofuel production and solar energy, says Holdren.

This will require strengths in natural science, engineering and "social technology" — our knowledge of business, government, and law systems — as well as the political will to carry decisions through to their conclusion.

Opting for business as usual will, Holdren says, be a prescription for disaster.

Link to Science
Reference: Science, 315, 737 (2007)