Powerful Ways Renewable Energy Helps Solve Climate Change
The Earth’s Blanket
The Earth's climate has fluctuated over the last 2.5 million years, passing through ice ages and warm periods where life prospered. These cycling periods are associated with steady reductions or increases in the planet's temperature and also with steady levels of carbon dioxide that historically reached a maximum of 280 parts per million.
Our planet counts on a unique and very special layer on the stratosphere known as the ozone shield. This layer has just the right size to reflect the excess ultraviolet rays coming from the Sun (harmful for all life on Earth) and only allow to pass a 70% of the solar irradiance levels that reach the planet and that are suitable for life.
The ozone shield is composed of greenhouse gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and ozone that absorb and reflect solar radiation, keeping the temperature of Earth at 15°C, instead of -18°C if this layer did not exist. This is called the Greenhouse Effect and is a process that occurs naturally.
However, if there is a rapid increase in the levels of greenhouse gases on this layer, that would lead to an increase on the Earth’s temperature above 14.5°C, heating up the atmosphere of the planet and leading the problem known as global warming.
As you can see, an increase of over a third of normal levels of carbon dioxide can lead to an important influence on global warming.
Are we responsible?
Scientists believe that all of these factors take part in the Greenhouse Effect:
- Volcanic eruptions
- Solar irradiance fluctuations
- Changes in the available amount of land and trees.
- Increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Tiny pollution particles (aerosols)
While for volcanic eruptions and solar irradiance fluctuations are naturally occurring processes, all the other causes can be directly attributed to humankind.
Greenhouse gas emissions and aerosols have been dramatically increasing since a century ago, casually coinciding with the beginning of the industrial revolution. Factories, power plants, and the transport sector have consumed fossil fuels like oil and coal to manufacture products and produce valuable resources like electricity. While all these benefits have made our lives much easier and pleasant, there is also a big cost to pay when we consider the consequences to our planet's climate.
Another important factor driving the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions is the deforestation. In their impulse to create new cities and expand the industrialization to every corner of the Earth, humankind forgot the crucial importance of forests and woods for our planet. The so-called "lungs" of the planet are those full green covered areas like the Amazonas in South America that highly contribute to the reduction of CO2 through the photosynthesis, and even large green areas like the Amazon jungle are starting to lose the fight against CO2.
If we sum up all the contribution from the factories to the greenhouse gas emissions and the reduction in the only life form that can transform CO2 into oxygen due to human desires, and we compare it with the naturally occurring process like volcanic eruptions and solar irradiance fluctuations (which are minimal), then the balance turns against humanity.
What happens if we don’t do anything about it?
The effects of global warming can be devastated for the planet, starting with the oceans. Recent studies from NASA on Greenland and the Arctic have proven that huge blocks of ice are now melting due to the excess heat and have reduced over 10% in the last 30 years. This excess water that once was frozen, is now ending up in the ocean, increasing water levels and leading to more and stronger floods per year on coastal regions.
Besides, higher temperatures also affect the weather of the planet. These effects can be seen on stronger storms and hurricanes, heavy snowfall, along with longer and more frequent droughts across the planet. All of these environmental factors present harder challenges for life on Earth that could lead to destruction and diseases of human beings but also plants and animals.
Food supply is another worrying factor. As the weather becomes harsh, there will be fewer places where crops and livestock be able to flourish and grow, probably leading to shortcuts on food supply, and therefore leading to famine and hunger. Besides, since world population keeps growing at tremendous rates (around 80 million people more per year), then the food supply should be increasing, not decreasing.
Climate change also directly affects human's health. By increasing the amount of toxic gases in the atmosphere, more cities like New Delhi can end up being trapped in a cloud of smog, causing problems like lung cancer, asthma, and heart diseases.
Renewable Energy, the best tool in our effort to clean the environment
What can you do to help reduce the Greenhouse Effect? The answer is simple, go green.
By changing the way you use electricity, you can do your part in the energy conservation initiative. Energy efficiency leads to less amount of electricity generated and therefore less carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere.
On a bigger scale, to balance the effect of over 100 hundred years of misconceptions and careless use of natural resources and to change the way we generate electricity for our cities, governments from all over the world have opted for initiatives that support and sustain renewable energies as the main answer to electricity supply and environmental consciousness.
By 2015, the European Environment Agency reported that the emissions of CO2 were reduced by 10% only considering solar and wind energy plants in Europe. On the other hand, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has reported that if we focus on the US, renewable energy sources in the country like solar, wind, hydropower, biomass and marine energy, generated almost 600 GWh in 2014, replacing a total of 50% coal sources, 20% on natural gas and 30% on oil, while at the same time avoiding 484 million tonnes of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.
If we look at other industrialized countries like China the reductions in CO2 emissions reached 1,000 million tonnes in 2014, that otherwise would be added to the atmosphere. Other countries like Brazil and Canada have also taken part in this worldwide initiative, reducing 360 million tonnes of CO2 and 345 million tonnes of CO2 respectively.
Earth, our only home
Did you know that the conditions that made life possible on Earth are extremely rare in the universe?
The right distance to the Sun, the appropriate thickness of the ozone’s layer and the large quantities of water reservoirs are very unusual conditions in the universe. Actually no other planet in our solar system enjoys such pleasures, and scientists from NASA have researched across the skies for many years looking for other planets that share similar conditions and that could allow the possibility of finding life, however no conclusion has been established and if so, another planet would be millions of kilometers away from our home planet.
Earth is truly our only home and we are the only ones who can help our motherland. Choose to go green and add a renewable energy source for your consumption of electricity and you will help save our only planet.