Prevention of Catastrophic Climate Change

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The Topics in Which Humans can Participate in the Prevention of Catastrophic Climate Change

Introduction

Over the last few years CO2 emissions have reached a high level. The escalation of CO2 emissions in the air are a massive contributing factor to our climate change. Over the last few years there have been drastic changes to the earth’s atmosphere and its ozone layer. Due to the constant increase and the overuse of items in which contribute to the earth’s CO2 levels, the earth is going to result in extreme climate changes such as; tsunami’s, earthquakes, heatstroke’s, subzero levels, etc…

The main contributor to the earths CO2 emissions is fossil fuels, which are being used faster than they are being produced. This is going to lead us to an inevitable loss of fossil fuels in the world. If these fossil fuels fully deplete, this will cause great difficulty in the running of electrical appliances, cars, factories, heating, etc. People claim that we have enough fuel to last hundreds of years. However, this does not include production in which it depletes gas and oil, coal deposits are estimated to deplete by the year 2088. Studies have shown that there have been many climate changes over the last few years which are caused by the earth’s rise in CO2 levels. If these levels are not counteracted soon it could lead the world to Armageddon. Can we as humans counteract climate change?

I believe that there are ways in which this can be counteracted by all humans on earth. Firstly, there are more eco-friendly options for the purpose that fossil fuels are being used for. These ways can reduce the CO2 emissions on earth drastically, saving fossil fuels for use when it is the only option. Secondly, for everyone there is forms of renewable energy available such as, solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy. Thirdly, other options to aid in the reduction of the earth’s CO2 levels include, tree plantation, reducing the use of fossil fuels, etc.

To better understand climate change there are many topics in which we should understand such as Carbon Dioxide. Carbon Dioxide is produced in many ways, such as; the burning of fossil fuel (oil, coal, etc…), and burning solid waste (trees). Plants then remove a sum of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the air this contributes to the biological carbon cycle (US EPA 2015).

https://www.lenntech.com/images/Carbon/Carbon-cycle.jpg(S.M. Enzler MSc 2018)

Discussion

CO2 emissions tend to fall under one of the greenhouse gases, these absorb radiation and prevent heat from escaping our atmosphere. This greenhouse gas due to excess heat on earth can contribute to the earth’s weather, causing all sorts of issues. There are many ways we, as humans can reduce our CO2 emissions on earths. Such as walking instead of driving or even cycling, reduce food wastage by buying only necessities and prevent impulse buying (EarthHero 2017).

Another factor that can help reduce CO2 emissions are trees. Trees can aid in the break-down of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. Carbon is attracted to oxygen (O2), which then form gaseous compounds such as; carbon dioxide (CO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). These compounds in a high concentration contribute to air pollution, which in turn effects the earth’s climate. Trees can break-down (CO2) through a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process in which CO2 is absorbed into the plant cells and the carbon is extracted to form plant food such as. Glucose, starch, and carbohydrates. This plant food is stored in the tree trunk, leaves, stems, roots, etc… Oxygen is then released back into the atmosphere  (Jane Leys 2018). Yale University researchers conducted research on the number of trees on earth in 2015. The study found an estimate of 3.04 trillion trees on earth (Bolton 2015). On the 29th of November 2018 there was a concentration of 408.33 part per million (ppm) of CO2 on earth (User 2018, p.2). One acre of a new forest can filter about 2.5 tons of carbon a year. A young tree absorbs about 13 pounds a year, and trees around 10 years old can absorb about 48 pounds of CO2 a year (Network 2018).

A number of companies have started powering their companies by using renewable energy, making the company more versatile reducing the need for transport from one company headquarters to another (reducing carbon fumes from transport), even using materials not made from fossil fuels (EarthHero 2017). Fossil fuels are made up of carbon and hydrogen bonds, from the deposits of what was once a living organism that have taken centuries to produce. There are three types of fossil fuels, which are coal, oil and natural Gas. Coal is formed when land vegetation is compacted and heated over long periods of time, these deposits form coal, which is usually sourced within mines. Oil is a liquid fuel that consists of the remains of marine micro-organisms that are deposited on the sea floor, it is sourced by large drilling platforms. Natural Gas is mainly formed from methane (CH4), which is compressed in a high form in large depths of the earth, like oil it’s sourced via large drilling platforms. Natural gas is evenly spread across the earth (S.M. Enzler MSc 2018).

In the world there are a certain amount of fossil fuels available today and we are guaranteed to eventually run low. The rate in which we use fossil fuels to the rate we produce fossil fuels, is increasingly different. According to studies by the year 2081 we may run out of fossil fuels, which will deplete the global warming effect and lead to catastrophic climate changes, possibly leading the world into a global ice age or worse (Ecotricity 2018).

There are multiple forms of renewable energy available to the average human, in which can help in the restoration of the earth’s atmosphere and the slowing of the CO2 emissions. Two main renewable energy sources are wind turbines and solar energy.

Wind energy is formed by wind turbines. With wind turbines, wind is forced through two/three propeller-like blades, around a rotor. This rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to conduct electricity. Wind turbines create electricity like the opposite of a fan. A fan uses electricity to generate wind, and a wind turbine uses wind to generate electricity. Wind energy is a form of solar energy, which is a result of uneven heating of the earth from the sun, the rotation of earth and even the earth’s surface changes (Department of Energy 2018).

When deciding on using wind energy there are some disadvantages such as, securing a good wind site, noise pollution, profitability, and Endangerment of wildlife. Wind energy has a massive pitfall which is, that it’s not a constant energy source. Although wind energy is never going to run out, wind isn’t always strong enough to generate electricity. This can cause serious problems for wind turbine developers who will often spends significant time and money investigating whether a site is good for the generation of wind power. For a wind turbine to efficient the location where it is built needs to have an acceptable supply of wind energy.

Wind turbines can produce massive amounts of noise and are considered visual pollution. One wind turbine can be heard from hundreds of meters away. Even though there are steps in effect on the site and even to avoid setting a wind turbine up near houses. A lot of people like the look of wind turbines, when other people find it aesthetically unpleasing and view it as a distraction from the lands natural beauty. The land where a wind turbine might be placed may have a more profitable use than the production of wind electricity, such as crop formation. Many birds have died due to flying into spinning wind turbine blades. Although it’s believed that manmade structures such as cell phone masts and radio towers present more of a threat to wildlife than wind turbines. Most of these issues have been reduced and some solved with the aid of technological advancement or setting up a properly sitting windmill (Power World analysis 2017).

Another renewable source of energy is solar energy. Solar energy is produced by the sun in the form of solar radiation, which makes solar electricity possible. Solar electricity can be produced by photovoltaic (PV) cells. The materials in these cells present the “photovoltaic effect”. This effect occurs when sunlight reaches the PV cells and the lights photons activate the electrons in the cells, causing them to follow, producing electricity (GRSF 2018).

In the case of the reliability of solar energy there are multiple factors to consider. In an economic sense, it is not reliable due to government mandates and subsidies. State based mandates ae requiring certain portions of the state’s energy to be a renewable form. A prime example is that in New Jersey they are required to have 4.1% of their energy in the form of renewable by 2048. Environmentally solar energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gases directly, but when there is no sun the original energy sources such as coal, oil, etc… is required. Due to an increased demand of PV panels, American industries are relying on cheaper products from China, which are known to dispose of these materials incorrectly. The improper disposal of these materials can lead to an introduction of silicon tetrachloride and hydrofluoric acid into the earth’s atmosphere (STRATA 2015).

Solar panels are calculated by dollars per Watt, home owner’s installation fee was averaged around $2.87 and $3.85 per Watt in 2018. The overall cost was $16,800 on average. An opportunity is given to home owner’s with solar panels to take advantage of the use of solar energy. Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is giving a 30 % tax credit to solar energy home owners for their purchase and installation of their solar panels through 2019. Power purchase agreements (PPA’s) are offering 10 – 30 % saving on the average electricity bill (Atwell 2018). When deciding on using Solar energy there some disadvantages may arise such as cost, weather, storage, space and pollution. For the initial installation of solar energy, it is rather high. The cost must be covered initially.

Even though the United Kingdom Government has announced some structure to encourage the embracement of renewable energy sources, an example of this would be the “Feed-in Tariff”. The initial payments will include charges for items such as; inverter(s), batteries, panels, and installation. It is assumable that in the worlds emerging technology, that eventually this price shall reduce drastically. Granted Solar energy can still be accumulated when it is a rainy day, or even cloudy, the efficiency of the mechanism can deplete. This is due to how solar panels are dependent on sunlight to ensure correct energy absorption. This means that when the weather fluctuates to a rainy day, or a cloudy day, you can see an obvious effect on the systems operations. Also, the system cannot take in solar energy during the night. But if you wish to have a more eco efficient way to heat your water, solar panels may suit you.

Solar energy must be either used correctly or stored in large batteries. These batteries are used in “off-the-grid” solar systems, and can be charged throughout the day, for use during the night. This solution can utilise the production of solar energy to a maximum, ensuring that there is no energy loss, the only downfall is that it is an expensive solution. In most cases people tend to use solar energy during the day and then depend on their energy provided at night, due to the lack of need to excessive energy use at night. If there is a higher demand for solar energy, then an increase of solar panels is required, thus increasing the amount of space required for the solar panels. Solar panels can take up a lot of roof space on houses and even some roofs are too small for the number of solar panels needed or wanted, one alternative is to place some of the panels in the homeowner’s yard, but it will require a good position for maximum solar absorption. Even though pollution is associated with solar energy, its eco-friendlier compared to the other sources of energy such as fossil fuels. Solar energy is associated with pollution when being transported and installed, due to emissions of greenhouse gases. During solar panel production, toxic and hazardous materials are used which can affect the environment. In the end solar panel energy causes less pollution to other energy sources (GreenMatch 2018).

Human’s ability to ensure the earth to be habitable may possibly be more limited than we think. If we don’t take the necessary steps to reduce catastrophic climate change there are multiple catastrophic outcomes that may happen to the earth. Basic activities performed on earth day by day could increase the earth’s temperature higher than we’ve driven it before. Research suggest that some systems on earth activates by warming and then could spire to an increased heat of the earth. The earth’s average temperature could increase by 4 to 5 degrees Celsius past our ‘pre-industrial temperatures’. This could then cause the earth to be exceedingly warmer than it has been in the last 1.2 million years, causing sea levels to increase by 33 to 200 feet than its current level. Earth’s temperature has gradually rose and fallen a couple of degrees for years. What may seem like a few minor fluctuations to the earth’s atmospheric temperature can lead to a huge impact on our planet. These fluctuations once brought the world in between glacial (cold) and interglacial (warmer) times (Loria 2018).

2oC above the current climate of earth is the target for limiting the global temperature increase. If greenhouse gasses continue as they are, we could increase by 1oC. 6000 years ago, the temperature was at this level and America was a desert. Mountains will lose the glaciers, rivers will vanish. A 1oC increase it could eliminate 1/3 of the earth’s water. Over the last 30 years Arctic sea ice has disappeared, while the ice is reflecting heat, oceans absorb them increasing water surface, increasing the temperature, making ice less likely to form. Mountains are at a great risk of landslides due to permafrost melting, which has held them for millions of years. Small low lined countries will be submerged due to the sea levels increase. At a 2oC rise people die at what is currently considered a normal summer, in 2003 there was a temperature increase of 2.3oC above average, and 52,000 people died in Europe alone. Plant growth will slow down and then stop. They will stop absorbing CO2 correctly and instead, plants will start releasing CO2 into the air. 125 thousand years ago when temperatures were 2oC higher sea levels were 6 meters higher, this is the equivalent of our polar ice caps, which are melting. By the year 2100 sea levels could rise by 1 meter this could displace 10% of the earth’s population. Scientists say we can avoid a +2oC earth if we limit our carbon emissions to no more than 2.9 trillion tons. We have currently used 1.9 trillion tons, leaving us 1 trillion tons from now until the end of time, at the current rate now we will use this in just 21 years (Sky News 2015).

Conclusion

When it comes to climate change there are multiple theories and reasons, but it is proven that climate change is all a result of humans. CO2 is produced in massive amounts, due to human advancement. We have been slowly affecting the climate of the earth over a span of years. But in the last couple of years we have started to push the limits and could lead ourselves into bother! But there is a definite way in which we can help reduce catastrophic climate change throughout the whole world. We can help currently through various ways. Tree plantation aid the reduction of C02 in the earth’s atmosphere. The earth is entitled to greenery and we should take the steps necessary to help reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere whilst making the earth more vibrant.

Solar energy is a good solution as it is easily accessible, there are also many governments trying to promote it by introducing tax schemes to make it more appealing to homeowners. There are factors that reduce people’s interest in getting solar energy installed such as; financially its expensive for initial instalment, even though it does save money in the future. Wind energy is another form of renewable energy available to solve out issues of climate change. It’s aimed more towards land owners. There are many positive factors. Wind is a result of solar change and is usually accessible on daily. It’s a renewable energy source, energy efficient and, cheaper than solar energy. But there are some negatives. Wind turbines are loud and can irritate any nearby neighbours. Some people see it as an unattractive appearance to the land, and it is dangers for some animals (to an extent).

If we don’t act on these soon, we could lead ourselves into an uninhabitable earth and the possible extinction of humans on earth, and other wildlife. It’s very possible for all humans to make a few changes in their lives to consider the earth and our impact on it, this is very achievable and if we all follow these few steps together, we could help the regeneration of earth and the long-lasting life it has in its possibilities.

References

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Bolton, D. (2015) There Are 3 Trillion Trees on Earth – but They’re Disappearing Fast [online], The Independent, available: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/how-many-trees-are-there-on-earth-10483553.html [accessed 1 Dec 2018].

Department of Energy (2018) How Do Wind Turbines Work? | Department of Energy [online], available: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/how-do-wind-turbines-work [accessed 6 Dec 2018].

Ecotricity (2018) When Will Fossil Fuels Run Out? – Ecotricity [online], available: https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-green-energy/energy-independence/the-end-of-fossil-fuels [accessed 1 Dec 2018].

S.M. Enzler MSc (2018) Fossil Fuels [online], available: https://www.lenntech.com/greenhouse-effect/fossil-fuels.htm [accessed 1 Dec 2018].

GreenMatch (2018) Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy (2018) | GreenMatch [online], available: https://www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2014/08/5-advantages-and-5-disadvantages-of-solar-energy [accessed 6 Dec 2018].

GRSF (2018) What Is Solar Energy? [online], What is solar energy?, available: https://www.greenoughsolarfarm.com.au/solar energy/what-is-solar-energy [accessed 2 Dec 2018].

Jane Leys, A. (2018) How Carbon Is Stored in Trees and Wood Products [online], available: http://forestlearning.edu.au/images/resources/How%20carbon%20is%20stored%20in%20trees%20and%20wood%20products.pdf.

Loria, K. (2018) The World Could Hit a Tipping Point That Causes Warming to Spiral out of Control — a Scenario Scientists Call ‘Hothouse Earth’ [online], Business Insider, available: https://www.businessinsider.com/hothouse-earth-climate-change-tipping-point-2018-8 [accessed 1 Dec 2018].

Network, U.F. (2018) Trees Improve Our Air Quality [online], available: http://urbanforestrynetwork.org/benefits/air%20quality.htm [accessed 1 Dec 2018].

Power World analysis (2017) ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy’, Power World Analysis, available: http://www.powerworldanalysis.com/advantages-disadvantages-wind-energy/ [accessed 6 Dec 2018].

EarthHero (2017) ‘What are Carbon Emissions (and why do they matter?)’, EarthHero, available: https://earthhero.com/carbon-emissions/ [accessed 20 Nov 2018].

Sky News (2015) Climate Change: What Happens If The World Warms Up By 2°C? [online], available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GjrS8QbHmY [accessed 6 Dec 2018].

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