We anticipate that unless dramatic reductions in fossil fuel use are made soon, global temperatures will rise by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, which will disrupt ecosystems around the world.
What measures can we take to reduce the impacts of climate change?
Should we allow the changes to occur, and take mitigation strategies, or should we prevent the changes by using technology to meet our power needs in other ways?
Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources that create much of the energy that human’s use; once these fuels are used, it will take an extensive amount of time for them to replenish, as they must go through regeneration. Between 2000 and 2010, global carbon dioxide emissions, which are the largest contributor to greenhouse gases (GHGs), from fossil fuels has increased by 34%. This increase in emissions leads to a raise in global surface temperatures. Higher surface temperatures will undoubtedly negatively affect ecosystems and health; species could become extinct, increased spread of infectious diseases, polluted soil and rivers, acid rain, and damage to the brain and immune system are all probable events that could occur. It is therefore necessary to develop and implement strategies to reduce the impacts of climate change on a global level.
The introduction of renewable energy sources is required to decrease the amount of fossil fuel usage, and therefore decrease the harmful effects caused by climate change. Multiple methods of renewable energy can be utilized, such as concentrated solar power, geothermal power, cogeneration, biomass, or wind, however hydroelectricity and photovoltaic methods will be focused on. Hydroelectricity utilizes water to create kinetic energy, which can then the converted into electricity. Although this is a renewable energy source, and does not require burning fossil fuels, hydroelectricity can cause environmental damage in terms of affecting fish and wildlife habitats and populations, and can negatively impact those who depend on the water source being used. Photovoltaic energy is created through the direct conversion of light into electricity, and occurs at the atomic level. Photovoltaic systems have negligible environmental impacts, however are quite costly to install, and are most beneficial in areas that receive sufficient sunlight.
Climate action plans can also be used to decrease non-renewable energy consumption. Examples of these plans include the Chicago Climate Action Plan, Seattle Climate Action Plan, and New York City’s PlanNYC. Their aims include reducing vehicular travelled miles, increasing renewable energy and the use of local products, and to restore functioning ecosystems in an attempt to reduce urban contributions to global warming while also increasing resiliency, self-reliance, and urban adaptability. All of these action plans have recognized the need to reduce climate change as a result of urban spaces. The Seattle Climate Action Plan found that the majority of GHG emissions are caused by road transportation, followed by non-road transportation, building energy, and industries. The Chicago Climate Action Plan has five strategies: energy efficient buildings, renewable and clean energy sources, better transportation options, reduced waste and industrial pollution, and adaptation. In order to address renewable and clean energy sources, Chicago has developed five mitigation strategies: upgrade power plants, build renewable electricity, improve power plant efficiency, increase distributed generation, and promote household renewable power.
Community and individual changes should be made to reduce the impacts of climate change. The utilization of a climate action plan or hydroelectricity would be suitable to target an entire population, and to stress the need of working towards a common goal to benefit all individuals. A photovoltaic system can be used at the individual level, and would