What’s the problem?
The Earth is warming at an alarming rate. 20 years ago, United Nations’ scientific community agreed that anything more than 2.5˚ C would result in widespread catastrophes throughout the environment. Currently, the Earth has warmed 1.5 degrees and already the impact has been felt through increased storms, increased fire seasons, and higher temperatures throughout the world.
Different way of thinking
In my Renewable Energy Systems class, my professor has introduced a different way of thinking about why the Earth has increased greenhouse gases present within the atmosphere. Short answer: Carbon Cycle. In a perfect world without outside forces acting upon the system, the Earth should be able to easily regulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere due to sequestration in plant life to counteract plant respiration and other natural releases of carbon.
However, fossil fuels present a new challenge. Fossil fuels can be thought of as a storage of carbon and energy that is from the past. This use of past carbon in the modern day has overbalanced the carbon cycle and the Earth’s natural defenses are struggling to keep up.
What can be done?
One of the best ways to help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels is through the reintroduction of solar energy systems. Most people immediately think of photovoltaic cells (Solar panels) as the only solar energy system available. This is not the case as wind energy is generated through the differential heating patterns on the Earth from the sun, and thus is a solar energy system. Much in the same way, wave fluctuation and the resulting power is generated from wind, which is derived from the sun. Even biomass gets much of the stored energy from the sun.
Only a few energy systems are not solar based: geothermal, tidal and hydro, and nuclear. Currently, nuclear is not thought of as strictly renewable due to the vast amounts of waste generated from the fission process. However, new advancements are being made in nuclear batteries, with scientists currently using diamonds to house radioactive materials to generate up to 15 J per day per gram of material. This is a very slight amount of energy, but you have to start somewhere!