Global Awareness about Clean Energy Sources

For this paper, I focused on the use of clean and affordable energy sources as one of the global goals in the Mathematics, Sustainability, and Global Learning unit. I found this an incredibly useful topic to focus in on due to the fact that it is such a needed topic for people to know more about and for them to utilize in their every day lives.

Throughout this course, we have talked a great deal about the importance of utilizing renewable resources to create the energy we need for our everyday lives. However, the reason I am now choosing to focus in on the “awareness” aspect of the paper is because I feel as though this is not fully known to so much of our planet. The United States has one of the larger carbon footprints when compared to other countries, showing that we are in overshoot and are not living a sustainable lifestyles. With this in mind, it is impossible to imagine that our planet will be able to survive if we keep up these actions. For this reason, I think awareness of alternative, and clean energy sources is an incredibly needed tactic in order to help save our planet and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, in which we utilize other forms of energy.

My sustainability act

Eating a plant-based diet is not only great for your health and the animals, but it is also crucial in combatting climate change and helping save water. It’s definitely hard to make the switch 100%, but doing simple things like “meatless Mondays” are a great start and will make a bigger difference than one might think.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the way in which people can take the energy released from the sun and turned into energy. The most common way that people may see the use of solar energy is through seeing solar panels, specifically on the roofs of people’s homes. The way solar panels work is that they absorb the photons that sunlight generates. The panels then take these photons and turn them into electrons, which creates a direct current. This current is then turned into the familiar alternating current which is used as a means of powering heat. The major drawback of this type of energy is the extreme costs. Solar panels are known to be extremely costly, and also take up a lot of space. The look of solar panels on the roofs of homes isn’t the most visually appealing as well, so people should be aware of all of these factors before committing to this type of renewable energy source. It is also very weather dependent, and would vary depending on how much sunlight is available. On the other hand, some advantages include how much it reduces electricity bills. With this in mind, the investment could actually be worth it as although the first cost of the panels is quite high, the lower electricity bills might make it pay off. Also, there is very low maintenance costs, which means that they would not require much help or attention once installed.


Cost-effective but not long term effective

When discuss wind energy, we think about the way in which we create electricity using the wind from the atmosphere. Now a days, the wind turbines use capture the kinetic energy from the wind to then generate electricity. There are three main types of wind energy. The first conducts small wind, which is used to direct power directly to a home and less than 100 kilowatts not connecting to a grid. The second is a utility wind power which is sends electricity to power systems through the power grid. Finally, the third is an offshore wind. Here the turbines take the wind from large bodies of water to generate power. From kinetic energy, the rotation turns the energy into mechanical energy. The rotation then turns the internal shaft connected to a box, which increases the speed of the rotation by 100 times. The average turbine stands 262 feet tall ad in order to generate energy, around 6-9 miles per hour of wind is needed. Additionally, if the wind is blowing faster than 55 miles per hour, then it will turn off and not generate. Throughout generation, the turbines can generate electricity 90% of the time. All wind turbines are connected in a wind farm, which is then connected to the power grid. Once the grid receives this generated energy, the power operators will send out energy where needed.

Out of all energy sources, wind energy is the cheapest form. This energy can cost up to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. By this being one of the cheapest forms of energy and being as cost effective as it is, it is a system that should be considered to have more around the wind turbines. There are also many disadvantages to these. One is the amount of space required in order to just create one. We clearly cannot have wind turbines in the middle of a city. Another problem is the fact that we have depend on the weather. As climate change and global warming is increasing our weather is becoming more unpredictable and extreme. With more extreme weather patterns, the more often the wind turbines will have to turn off.

American Isn’t the Biggest Problem

In this article, it is discussed how many different countries, other than America, are found to be incredible dangerous when it comes to littering and keep trash off of the streets and oceans. When people tend to think of Global Warming and littering issues, they tend to only think of what they can do in their own country, and for the most part, this seems to be talked about in America.

I think an important part of this process, if we as humans are really trying to make a difference on our environment, would be to educate other countries about the dangerous of littering as well. As shown in the chart taken from this article, other countries such as China and Indonesia are struggling immensely when it comes to trash issues.

I would argue that we are not actually making an impact on the environment as a whole if we do not take a step back and make sure we are educating the whole world, not just our country. 

Increased Carbon Dioxide Emission Leads to Decreased Nutrients in Crops

Although carbon dioxide emissions can, and are needed to increase plant and crop growth, emissions that are too high can decrease the nutritional value of crops. According to, PLOS Medicine, CO2 decreases the nutritional value of key staple crops, particularly rice and wheat, by lowering concentrations of protein, micronutrients, and B vitamins. Therefore, decreasing greenhouse gases could decrease 48.2% of negative health effects. Additionally, CO2 induced changes in plant chemistry will also have global consequences for all living things who consume plants, including us humans. Rising temperatures of 1 degree Celcius above pre-industrial levels are also expected to have a detrimental effect on crop growth due to increased intensity, duration, and frequency of heat waves.

This lack of nutrients from rising CO2 emission can lead to both malnutrition and can increase toxins in food. This is especially difficult because climate change and severe weather as a result can decrease food production to up to 21 to 35% of staple foods such as rice, soybeans, and wheat. In a study conducted in Japan, Australia, and the US, crops were grown in normal conditions and in experimental plots with CO2 enriched air. The current atmospheric CO2 level wis 400 parts per million. In the enriched plots, it was between 546 and 586 parts per million, “a level scientists expect the atmosphere to reach in four to six decades” (National Geographic). Results found a 9.3% drop in zinc level in wheat which led them to conclude that as CO2 increases, crop nutrients decrease. This result touches upon what is occurring now, and what can occur in the future. The article also touches upon how CO2 emissions peak in May every year, which is the a prime crop growing month. Even if we somehow figured out a way to stop carbon dioxide emission today, the damage already put into the atmosphere will affect us for years.

How Do We Know CO2 is Affecting Our Planet?

In the article, “Climate change: How do we know?”, the author discusses just how prominent of the effects of global warming are today, specifically the effects that CO2 has played in getting us to where we are. The overall warming trend of the planet has been due to the result of human activity over the past years, specifically the increase in the levels of greenhouse gases being released into the environment.

Greenhouse gases are those that are released into the environment and trap the heat radiated by the sun, causing the warming effect that has led to the intense climate change we are experiencing. One of these very effective greenhouse gases is Carbon Dioxide. As shown in the chart attached to this article, CO2 levels, in units of parts per million, have reached new and astonishing levels where our planet is currently. Prior to 1950, the highest the CO2 levels ever reached was around 300 parts/million. However, today levels have reached numbers as high as 400 parts/million.

Everyday effects of global warming have been seen in the global temperature rise, of approximately 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century. In addition, there is the warming oceans, the shrinking ice sheets, the glacial retreat, the decreased snow cover, the rise in sea level, and many others.

Overall, this increase in CO2 levels, along with other greenhouse gases, proves to be resulting in a number of detrimental effects to our planet.

Agriculture and Climate Change

Agriculture has been the main means of survival for humans for centuries. The age of hunter-gatherers is ancient history. Societies all over the globe have been built and destroyed over the resources that are yielded due to the development of agriculture and agricultural technology. Because agriculture involves utilizing a small area relative to the number of crops grown or livestock raised on it, it means that farmers and ranchers are able to produce a high volume of what they are producing in a concentrated area. However, the world has been facing an agricultural crisis in the last millennium due to exponential population growth and a vast reduction in arable farmland. This means that the demand for milk, eggs, crops, meat, etc.. is rising, but the area in which these resources are produced is shrinking. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social affairs reported a projection that the world population will reach 9.7 billion people by the year 2050. But what does that mean for the future of agriculture? Well, modern scientists have already started to come up with solutions to these issues; many of which may sound familiar. Factory farming, genetically modified foods, pesticides and artificial growth hormone and antibiotic cocktails for animals are only a few ways that agriculture has been permeated by modern technology. Unfortunately, many of these technological ‘advances’ have been catastrophic for the earth. Factory farms produce incredible amounts of CO2 and CH4 and they pollute soil, ground water and air quality. The sick animals that they raise on artificial hormones and antibiotics are then fed to humans which makes us, by default, sicker as well. The plants, such as soybeans, produced by companies like Monsanto, are so altered and sprayed with chemicals that they are de facto stripped of their nutritional value.

In the same UN/DESA study, it is projected that the yield of staple grains like wheat and corn will decrease by 50% due to the effects of global warming. Imagine that: 35 years from now, we will probably have only half the number of grains and corn that we have now because of climate change. Less arable land means fewer farms, which leads to higher prices and lower production. Agriculture, and the deforestation that is needed to create farmland, is responsible for 1/5th or 21% of all CO2 emissions in the world, between 2000 and 2010. The total estimate of CO2 emissions from agriculture in this decade was approximately 44 billion metric tonnes. Anthropic climate change is killing agriculture, but the deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions from farms is one of the single largest causes of climate change in the world. So is agriculture good or bad? The simple answer is both or neither, whichever way you choose to look at it.

You can read the whole article here.

The Effects of Increasing levels of Carbon Dioxide

Kevin Loria’s article on the rise in Carbon Dioxide levels mentions that, for the first time in more than 800,000 years, the monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have topped 410 ppm. Providing a strong reason to believe this will have adverse effects on human health. This rise in CO2 levels will increase levels of pollution and the diseased related to it, as well as extreme weather patterns. These patterns would include heat waves, hurricanes, and spread the ranges of disease-carrying insects. Loria mentions that although the rise in Carbon Dioxide levels won’t have direct effects on our ability to breathe, but will “dramatically increase pollution and related diseases, potentially slow human cognition, cause extreme weather events (including deadly heat waves), and broaden the range of disease-carrying creatures like mosquitos and ticks.”

A study published in 2017 in the journal Nature Climate Change found that “30% of the world is already exposed to heat intense enough to kill twenty or more people each day.” This rise in atmospheric temperature may cause many more people to die every year and if temperatures continue to increase the numbers will multiply. This rise in temperature will also lead to a more intense hurricane season with rising water levels and warmer ocean temperatures. Along with extreme heatwaves, CO2 will destroy the ozone, which can lead to death through respiratory illness, asthma, and emphysema. Along with increasing rates of lung cancer, allergies, and cardiovascular disease. Insects along with their deadly diseases will spread to the warmer regions, who would typically die out during colder seasons would stay longer, and their habitats would expand further.

The effects of this rise in CO2 are already showing up, and without an answer, we will begin to see more and more severe consequences for our actions. The answers are more than just cutting back on CO2; this becomes a worldwide problem and not just a domestic issue.

Irreversible Climate Change

In her article, “Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions,” Susan Solomon and her colleagues express how the human race has such a large impact on the world’s climate change. The paper focuses on how the effects of increases in carbon dioxide on the atmosphere take around a thousand years to be repaired. Human activities were identified as the most prominent cause of the rise in “atmospheric concentrations of key greenhouse gases.” These increases in greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, will result in a wider range of damaging and possibly irreversible climate changes.

Solomon highlights how complicated the multi-step process of carbon dioxide atmospheric extraction can be. The process includes “rapid exchange with the land biosphere and the surface layer of the ocean through air-sea exchange.” Typically, 20% of the added tonnes of carbon dioxide stay in the atmosphere while 80% becomes mixed in with the ocean. Ocean warming is just one quantifiable aspect of climate change. Unlike methane or nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide is the only greenhouse gas whose gases persist over time rather than periodic instances. The graphs below display the amount of carbon dioxide that is “expected to be retained in the atmosphere by the end of the millennium.”

These three graphs display carbon dioxide and global mean climate system changes. Results are represented with an 11-yr running mean.

Overall, the main point of Solomon’s article was to highlight how irreversible these small but detrimental gas emissions can be to our climate. Changes in sea levels, changes in precipitation, and changes in atmospheric warming can all be traced back to the increase in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Not only are these changes dangerous to the environment, but also play a vital role in the timeline of mankind.