Global Warming II
The first installment of Global Warming established carbon dioxide (CO2) as the main contributor to global warming. This CO2 is a by product when fossil fuels are oxidized to produce energy that has driven world economy since the Industrial Revolution began over 200 years ago. About 82 percent of the energy has been provided by fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil. Energy is an important element that has increased our productivity in all aspects of our lives-manufacturing, transportation, farming, construction and daily living.
As the world population increases, how can we manage our need for energy? Firstly, we must increase the efficiency with which we use energy. Enhancing energy efficiency is equivalent to getting more useful work or service using less energy. The United States wastes two-thirds of its energy, including 80 percent of the energy used in transportation. Since 1965, increases in energy efficiency have allowed us to maintain the same per capita energy consumption with greater production and service. Recently our federal government has further mandated nearly doubling fuel efficiency in our cars and light trucks to 54.5 mpg by 2025, equivalent to lowering gasoline prices by $1 per gallon and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world’s energy needs in 2050 by one-third and help control global emissions of greenhouse gases (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_energy_use). Such increases in efficiency will require considerable research, technological breakthroughs and improvements.
Secondly, we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by using more renewable energy because, unlike fossil fuels, these sources do not emit CO2 and their supply is unlimited since the source of all renewable energy is our sun. Among the renewable energies of wind, solar and hydropower, wind and solar energy only provided 0.9 percent of global energy use a decade ago. This amount has risen to 3 percent now and is predicted to reach 8 percent by 2035. Such increased use of renewable energy is economically feasible because of continued improvements in efficiency in these technologies. Corporations, governments and homes have begun to install renewables. Walmart and IKEA have invested billions of dollars to use wind and solar power. The new Chandler City Hall has installed solar panels and is designed for minimal use of power plant generated energy for its lighting, heating and cooling needs. It received the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design award for being an environmentally sustainable building. At the same time, old buildings can be renovated to be more energy efficient. The Empire State Building in New York City has reduced its energy requirement by 38 percent annually after it underwent a deep energy retrofit.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the twin pillars of a sustainable energy policy. The developed nations have a tremendous opportunity to develop such a policy for the future well-being of all living things.
Next time: How can consumers participate in this path to sustainability on the earth?