Global Energy Dilemmas Research Project

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This website reports on a range of activities and outputs that are the result of a research projected entitled: “Global Energy Dilemmas: A Geographical Perspective.” The project, which has been funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, examines the relationship between energy security, climate change policy and globalization. 

The central proposition is that the nature of the energy dilemmas facing a particular region or state is shaped by the interplay between energy, environment and society (economy) and by its ‘position’ in the global political economy. Acknowledging that the global energy system is the most significant source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, the project uses the ‘Kaya Identity’ to highlight the key drivers that are responsible for increases in carbon dioxide emissions from energy use. According to the Kaya Identity, carbon dioxide emissions from energy use are driven by: the level of energy intensity (energy use for unit of economic output), the carbon intensity of fuel use (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of energy produced), the level of economic activity (in terms of GDP per capita) and the size of the population. 

The global energy dilemma is framed as a question: can we have secure and affordable energy services that are environmentally benign? The project combines research on energy security and climate change to identify a triple challenge for the global energy system: to improve energy intensity, which is to reduce the amount of energy used per unit of output; to reduce the carbon intensity of energy use, which is to move away from carbon intensive fossil fuels to low carbon energy sources; and, to achieve both in ways that are: equitable, secure and affordable.

The project

The project deploys the Kaya Identity to examine the Global Energy Dilemmas Nexus that explores ways in which energy security concerns, climate change policy and globalization processes combine in particular parts of the world to create quite different versions of the wider global energy dilemma. A four-fold regionalisation scheme with associated energy dilemmas has been devised:

  • Sustaining Affluence: energy dilemmas in high-energy societies 
    that emphases the need to reduce energy demand and decarbonise energy services in the longstanding members of the OECD.
  • Legacies and liberalisation: energy dilemmas in the post-socialist world
    that relates to the impact of the collapse of the centrally-planned economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the consequences of economic transition.
  • Fuelling growth: energy dilemmas in the emerging economies that focuses on the rapidly growing economies such as China, India and Brazil and the energy exporting states of the Middle East who together will account for the vast majority of the energy demand and emission growth between now and 2050.
  • Energising development: energy dilemmas in the global south that relates to the energy challenges that face the majority of world’s population and states and is focused on ensuring access to modern energy services in a sustainable manner and, in the case of energy-rich states, maximising the benefits of hydrocarbon wealth.



Over the course of this project a wide variety of outputs have been produced and these are made available via this website. A range of publications has already been produced and a book dedicated to the project is in preparation. As part of the initial phase of the research an extensive literature research on geographical work on energy issues and a content analysis was conducted and this has recently been updated. The analysis of the Kaya Characteristics of individual countries has resulted in the production of series of maps of the indicators associated with the key drivers described above. The project also informs a range of presentations and teaching resources as well as an on-line guide to information sources on energy issues. 


The project is currently the basis of a series of lectures in a Third Year module at Leicester that is entitled Contemporary Environmental Issues and in July 2012 Professor Bradshaw will be teaching a course on Global Energy Dilemmas at the University of Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Studies . At a later date, the teaching resources related to these activities will be posted on this website. 


Although the Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship is now finished, work on the project continues and new material will be added to these web pages on a regular basis. 


For further details: 

Email: Professor Mike Bradshaw

My University Homepage 

Energy Geographies Working Group

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