We’re a Type Zero Civilization
The Kardashev scale, designed by astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev, was created to assess how advanced a civilization is by taking into consideration multiple factors, including population growth, technology, and energy demands. The idea is that the more advanced the people are, the higher and more complex their energy usage will be. When we first appeared on Earth 200,000 years ago, for example, our species was few in number, and the extent of our energy source was, really, just fire. We now number in the billions and use a combination of wind, solar, and nuclear energy sources, though our main energy supply comes from fossil fuels (it really seems like we just moved on to burning bigger and badder things). The International Energy Agency estimates that each year our societies use an estimated 17.37 terrawatt-hours.
All of this may sound fairly advanced — we’ve come a long way from just using logs to fuel our everyday lives. Yet in reality, we’re really quite primitive compared to where we could be. We still get the majority of our energy from dead plants and animals, a source that will eventually run out sooner or later, and which is helping destroy our planet in the process.
So where do we place on the Kardashev scale? We’re a zero: 0.72, to be more exact. Here’s what we need to move forward.
To become a Type I civilization we would have to harness all the available energy of our home planet at 100% efficiency. This means capturing the energy of every wave, every beam of sunlight, and every bit of fossil fuel we can dig up. To do that without rendering the entire planet uninhabitable, we’d have to use nuclear fusion. And to create all the energy we need via this method, we would require 280 k/s of hydrogen and helium every second, or 89 billion grams of hydrogen per year. You can gather more than that from one square km of ocean water.
With this ability to harness all energy from Earth also comes the ability to control all of the planet’s natural forces, including volcanoes, geothermal vents, earthquakes, and climate. At 100,000 times the energy usage we have now, we’d have access to 10¹⁷ watts of energy as a Type I civilization. Consider, for example, the ability to control a…