In order to limit human impact on the global climate, it is necessary to decarbonize the energy supply of nations by adopting clean energy sources to replace fossil fuels. However, as I show here on the basis of an analysis of cross-national time-series data for the past five decades, reducing the carbon intensity of overall energy use is associated with higher energy use, and reducing the carbon intensity of electricity production is associated with higher electricity production. These findings suggest that adding noncarbon and low-carbon energy generation capacity may be connected with processes that spur energy demand. This has important environmental implications, since alternative energy sources have serious environmental impacts of their own. The policy challenge is to ensure that clean energy sources replace rather than add to carbon-based energy.

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