April 04, 2016

Kardashev scale useless for forecasting future civilization

Reminder of the Kardashev scale

A Type 1 Kardashev civilization is capable of harnessing the total energy of its home planet. Solar Energy received by the Earth from the sun is 174 Petawatts (1.74 X 10^17 watts).

A type 2 Kardashev civilization is capable of harnessing the total energy of its star. Solar energy produced by the sun is 384.6 Yottawatts (3.84 X 10^26 watts)

A type 2 Kardashev civilization is capable of harnessing the total energy of its galaxy. 5 × 10^36 Watts is the approximate luminosity of the Milky Way galaxy.

World energy increased by ten times from 1930 to 2005

The world increased energy usage by ten times from 1930 (50 exajoules) to 2005 (500 exajoules).

In 1995-2010, about 90% of the world energy was from coal, oil, natural gas and biofuel (mainly wood, ethanol and sugar cane).

Increasing power usage by nearly 1,000 to 10,000 times would be the level needed to be a full Type 1 civilization.


In 2012, total world energy consumption was 553 exajoules (553×10^18 J=153,611 TWh), equivalent to an average power consumption of 17.54 TW (or 0.724 on Sagan's Kardashev scale).

Two civilizations could have the same energy usage on the Kardeshev scale (say 0.75) but one might be all coal power while the other could be producing all of its power with nuclear fusion reactors.

Similar energy producing civilizations could have actual productivity that is different by over a thousand times.

A civilization could have built greenhouses that are 20 times more efficient than open air agriculture. They could transition to vertical farming and have genetically enhanced crops.

Manufacturing could transition to fully automated robotic systems or to automated nanotechnology.

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