Greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Climate change is the consequence of any kind of adjustments in the climate system. Change in climate is caused by fluctuations in the factors that influence climatic patterns. This phenomenon has become one of the greatest environmental threats and risks that the world is facing. Persistent human activities such as driving cars, farming, deforestation, and industrialization result into production of greenhouse gases. These gases gather in the atmospheric space, and trap the heat from the sun. This is what causes climate change manifested through global warming and other processes. The effects of disruptive changes have led to catastrophic events like storms, droughts, rise in the sea levels, and floods (Kammen & Casillas 2010, p. 1181).
Climate change is majorly caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the intervention efforts meant to mitigate the impacts of climate change thus target human activities that contribute to additional emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (Letcher & ScienceDirect 2009, p. 67). Therefore, renewable energy has been considered as one of the leading solutions to climate change. Provision of ‘carbon-neutral’ sources of power, heat, transport fuels and renewable energy options has been considered by environmental scientists as a great move in the right direction. The objective is to enact a transition from high to low carbon economy.
Although the renewable energy sector is quickly changing, climate change crises dictate that the energy system be drastically transformed. This will help in combating the dangers that are associated with global warming that threatens to slump the global economy in the face of globalization and industrialization. Roggema (2009, p. 211) cited air pollution caused by transport and power sectors of the economy have been a great threat not only to the human health but have also shifted the climate systems.
Prospective Interventions to Address Climate Change Crisis
Climate change as an environmental problem is essentially a problem caused by the extreme utilization of fossil energy. Agriculture, changes in land use, cement production and use of chemicals all contribute to the emission of the greenhouse gases (Roggema 2009, p. 234). However, 70% of the global warming/climate change problems is caused by unsustainable use of fossil fuels. Therefore, in order to deal with the problems related to climate change, there has to be a shift from use of fossil fuels at home, in the industries, transport and generally the entire sectors of the economy (Roggema 2009, p. 203).
In order to avert the challenges associated with climate change, saving of energy is essential. Electricity, automobiles and carbon emissions are the main causes of problems related to climate change. The regular incandescent light bulbs should thus be changed and replaced with the energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs which are more efficient and energy saving. The emissions that result from automobiles like motor vehicles, motorcycles should also be reduced (Letcher & ScienceDirect 2009, p. 154).
Climate change has been caused by human activities such as deforestation in search of more space for agricultural activities. Therefore carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise. Being a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide has contributed to the rise of global temperatures. Roggema (2009, p. 183) cited that human activities that encroach to the environment should thus be limited to prevent further crises associated with global warming.
Traditional methods of conservation of forest ecosystems should be embraced to preserve the ecosystem and mitigate the effects of climate change (Tracy 2010, p.353). Therefore reforestation should be encouraged so that the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are reduced from the atmosphere. Farming activities that promote environmental hazards such as soil erosion should thus be limited and replaced with farming approaches that are environmentally custodial.
Industrialization is the major contributor to climate change. This is because of the emission of the greenhouse gases like Nitrous Oxide and Carbon dioxide (Tracy 2010, p. 354). In order to avert climate change challenges there should be focus on change in the energy used in the industries from the dirty to clean energy. Climate change scientists have advocated for the use of renewable energy as the solution to the climate change problems that are caused by the use of environmentally hazardous fuels like coal and nuclear energy in the industries in the global economy (Tracy 2010, p. 355).
Climate Change and the options for Renewable Energy
Human activities and natural environmental processes are all responsible for climate change. Natural causes include volcanic eruptions, ocean currents, changes in the earths orbit and solar variations. An eruption of volcanoes throws out great volumes of sulphur dioxide, water vapor, dust, and ash into the atmosphere (Wengenmayr 2008, p. 141). The large volumes of gases and ash have the ability to influence climatic patterns by increasing the planetary reflectivity leading to atmospheric cooling. The aerosols are produced by volcanoes also affects the purity of air in the atmosphere. These contribute greatly to climate change.
The oceans currents are considered a great threat to the climate stability. The currents release great amounts of heat across the planet. Besides, the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere can produce El Nino. The oceans determine the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. This implies that changes in the ocean circulation greatly affects climate and significantly contributes to the climate (Wengenmayr 2008, p. 231).
Climate change has been caused by human activities. MacZulak (2010, p. 9) cited that this is majorly through the burning of fossil fuels, changes in the land use, and industrialization. With industrial revolution of the 19th century, fossil fuels have been used to support industrial processes. Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas have been great energy supplies for the industrialized economies. However, these sources of energy have contributed to great emissions of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These are responsible for climate change (MacZulak 2010, p. 8).
Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased because of human activities such as deforestation and agriculture. Methane is released through oil drilling, mining of coal, leaking gas pipelines, landfills and waste dumps (MacZulak 2010, p. 9). These greenhouse gases cause great increase in the climate change and are significantly responsible for global warming. The greatest cause of climate change and global warming however is the burning of the fossil fuels. These fuels cause emission of greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere leading to depletion of the ozone layer and global warming (Twidell & Weir 2006, p. 143).
Options for Renewable Energy
The term renewable energy is used in reference to the energy resources that occur naturally in the environment and can always be re-used after the initial function. Examples of this energy are the solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy. Rivers, biomass and garbage are also considered as renewable energies (Abid, Crawford & Davoudi 2009, p.167). Renewable energy is the future of the earth’s energy needs.
However, in order to effectively combat climate change-related challenges, the global mean temperatures have to be kept below two degrees Celsius. This calls for prior planning and transformation of the industrial sectors’ use of energy. Renewable energy has the potential decreasing the use of fossil fuels that are to blame for most of the problems associated with climate change (Abid et al 2009, p. 169).
Renewable energy sources such as wind energy, solar energy, and the bio-fuels are increasingly being used as energy alternatives. With the climate change and its crises, such form of energy has the advantage of energy security since the fossil fuels will be depleted as a result of climate change. Climate change is largely a consequence of anthropogenic activities such as burning of the fossil fuels, industrial processes, deforestation and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is estimated that the power sector by itself contributes about 40% of the total carbon emissions (Abid et al 2009, p. 297). This can only be altered by shifting to the use of renewable energy.
Climatic impacts such as tsunamis, droughts, wildfires, floods, storms, heat waves and tornados are consequences of climate change (MacZulak 2010, p. 8). However, according to the climate change specialists, clean air policy that includes use of renewable energy can substantially mitigate the negative impacts of climate change caused by fossil fuels. Renewable energy technologies are considered to be the most potential mitigation for greenhouse gases. In the steadily growing awareness on the importance of environmental protection priorities, renewable energy is considered appropriate in the mitigation of climate change effects (Chiras 2007, p. 67).
Renewable energy is the alternative to the climate change crises since it does not produce greenhouse gas emissions and pollute the air as is the case with the fossil fuels. Chiras (2007, p. 17) indicated that biomass energy for example, has been used as an alternative for fossil fuels so as to conserve the environment. It is considered a greenhouse gas neutral since its combustion releases no more carbon dioxide than was absorbed during growth period of the organic material. Biomass fuel also contain little sulphur and low combustion temperatures. This limits the formation of nitrogen oxide which is a greenhouse gas dangerous to the environment (Abid et al 2009, p. 269).
Responding to Climate Change
The transport industry is driven mostly by petrol. This causes emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide combines with other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and cause global warming. In order to deal with this menace, there is need for countries to invest in energy efficient technologies like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and new technologies such as hydrogen cars (Abid et al 2009, p. 297). This has the potential of reducing petroleum emissions of greenhouse gases into the air. Further, there is need to shift from air and truck transports to electric rail transport that reduces emissions significantly.
Industries should shift from the fossil fuels to use of bio-fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel fuels should be used in the gasoline engines in the industrial economies. Abid et al (2009, p. 169) cited that electric vehicles can contribute into reduction of dangerous gases into the atmosphere especially if the energy is produced through the renewable energy sources.
In order to deal with climate change and environmental crises associated with it, elimination of waste methane is required. Methane is considered to be one of the strongest greenhouse gases that are responsible for the climate change problems. Waste methane should thus be dealt with responsibly. This is through careful handling of oil wells, landfills, coal mines and the waste treatment plants (Chiras 2007, p. 17). This will provide a net greenhouse gas emission benefits.
Biomass as a source of bio-energy can be used to capture carbon. Biomass traps carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through photosynthesis. When biomass is decomposed through combustion, carbon is released as carbon dioxide. This is the process involved in the carbon cycle. Biomass fuelled power plants result into a net-negative carbon dioxide emission. This implies that there will be less carbon in the atmosphere will be trapped through the technology and reduce greenhouse gases that are a threat to the environment (Abid et al 2009, p. 169).
The adoption of renewable energy technologies is strategic in addressing the problems associated with climate change and global warming (Ehrfeld 2009, p. 113). From 1970s and 80s, development agencies have promoted small-scale renewable energy technologies. This includes the use of biogas, cooking stoves, the wind turbines and solar heaters in the industrializing countries. In the large scale developing countries have responded to climate change through the use of ethanol in the transport sector. This is especially the case in Brazil. In India, biogas is being used in households for lighting and cooking. Grid connected power in India and hydropower are being used in India and Nepal respectively as renewable sources of energy and safe energy for environmental conservation (Ehrfeld 2009, p. 119).
Naturally Sustainable Renewable Energy
As oil reservoirs and oil wells in the world run dry due to extensive exploitation and use in the energy sector, there is also an outcry in the environment that is caused by their consequences. Renewable energy sources include geothermal energy, solar, hydroelectric, biomass and wind energy (Chiras 2007, p. 233). These forms of energy have been considered to be the most environmental friendly because they don’t produce high levels of greenhouse gases and other substances that are not environmentally friendly. The challenge that these forms of renewable energy have is sustainable use.
Hydroelectric power uses the movement of falling water to run the turbines. Unlike other sources of energy, hydroelectricity does not depend on the fuels like natural gas or petrol to run the engines. This makes it more environmentally friendly. Besides, it is more sustainable with the sustainability of the environment so that water capacity of the dams is not interfered with. It uses the natural progression nature to generate electricity (Chiras 2007, p. 117).
Hydroelectric power does not produce direct waste that pollutes the environment. It is thus considered to be environmentally sustainable (Ehrfeld 2009, p. 114). The carbon dioxide levels produced by hydroelectric power plants are considerably very low. This is however only produced during the construction stage of the plants and not in the operational phase of the plants making it environmentally friendly.
As a renewable source of energy, hydroelectric power does not need the use of fuels to run the turbines. The use of petrol in the production of hydroelectric energy is not existent. This implies that when the price of the fossil fuels rises, the hydroelectric plants are often not affected. This makes it a sustainable and reliable source of energy when compared to other sources of energy (Ehrfeld 2009, p. 116). It also means that the consumer price of this form of renewable energy is fairly constant. In terms of sustainability, hydroelectric power stations last longer than the energy plant stations that are powered by fossil fuels. They are generally easy to maintain and pose no much threat to human life and property.
Hydroelectric energy plants contribute to conservation of the environment. In the countries where great investments have been done in the hydropower such as Bhutan, environmental stewardship and custodianship is encouraged. Ehrfeld (2009, p. 119) cited that since it depends on water, a lot of forest conservation and reforestation is encouraged. This helps in the reduction of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. The human activities that contribute environmental degradation are also reduced through investment in the hydroelectric power plants.
Climate change is caused by human activities that tamper with the environment. However, when a country invests in the hydroelectric plants, environmental conservations efforts are boosted. With the conservation of the water catchment areas and the forests, hydroelectricity becomes a very sustainable and reliable source of renewable energy. As it produces clean energy through environmentally friendly approaches, it also helps in the protection of Mother Nature (Ehrfeld 2009, p.121).
International Agreements and Government Interventions in Climate Change
Various intervention efforts have been made at the community and individual levels to combat climate change and to reduce the negative effects of human activities on the environment. However, much is still needed to be done especially at the inter-state and governmental level. One of the efforts that the governments from the industrialized countries are making in the mitigating climate change is through the Kyoto Protocol. The focus of the protocol is in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions especially from the industrialized countries by 2012.
The developed countries have the responsibility to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases from their large industries. These gases contribute to global warming and climate change. The Kyoto Protocol intervention targets reduction of carbon in the atmosphere (Karlsson, Lund, & Mathiesen 2010, p. 488). This is through emission trading, clean development mechanism and the joint implementation. These strategies target reductions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The countries that are signatories are thus investing in renewable energy technology options in the industries.
The UK government considers climate change as a priority. Its approaches include targeting households to help in energy saving and strengthen renewable energy adoption. Civil society, community and private organizations are also strengthened through grants to help in generation of renewable heat from the renewable sources (Ehrfeld 2009, p. 115). The industrialized countries are re-focusing investments towards generation of renewable energies that are environmentally friendly and are sustainable. There is thus need to encourage less use of fossil fuels and more investment in the bio-fuels.
Improvement of energy efficiency is a good government strategy for dealing with the climate change problems. Reduced use of energy implies reduced production of carbon dioxide. Karlsson et al (2010 p. 501) cited that this calls for more efficient vehicles, motors, appliances and industrial processes. Besides, development of renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, hydroelectricity, and biomass should be encouraged to reduce the consequences of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The transport sector should reduce gasoline consumption. The trucks, cars and buses use almost half of the oil in the United States. There is therefore urgent need for investment in electric and fuel-celled vehicles so as to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide. Transport policies should also encourage less driving of single-passenger vehicles in order to reduce greenhouse emissions (Ehrfeld 2009, p. 115).
Human activities that involve land use are largely to blame for destruction of the environment. Governments should focus on developing agricultural policies that discourage environmentally hazardous practices and activities such deforestation and other human activities that are dangerous to the environment. Climate change has negatively impacted on food security. In order to therefore fight poverty, climate change must be addressed through agricultural activities and policies that are environmentally friendly (Kammen & Casillas 2010, p. 1181-1182).
Climate change is greatly caused by human activities more than the natural processes. Industrialization and agricultural activities are largely responsible for the production of greenhouse gases that promote global warming and other consequences. These threaten wildlife and human existence and as such should be addressed. Renewable energy is the potential rescue of the environment from the negative effects of human activities. Governments and countries thus need to use less of fossil fuels and invest more in renewable energy technology options. These include hydropower, geothermal, wind energy and other reliable sources of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources.
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