Millie HennickOctober 29, 20184060
The latest climate reports are more disturbing than ever before. The need for a solution to our energy problems is more intense than any time in our history because pollution is killing people prematurely. Increased solar power installations are causing a dramatic change in fossil fuel consumption. Climate change is the top motivator of renewable energy generation but financial benefits are now making solar a viable choice for many home and business owners. Solar panels and wind turbines are a common sight universally. How does solar power better our health, environment, and economy? This article demonstrates the many positive impacts of clean energy, including the benefits of wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass.
When looking for the causes of global warming, we need to examine our own energy use. Burning fossil fuels is polluting our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming discharges. These gases behave like a blanket, trapping heat. The result is a series of adverse impacts, from stronger, more regular storms, to drought, sea level rise, and extinction of animal and plant species. In the United States, almost a third of global warming emissions come from our electricity generation. Most of those emanations develop from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
What is carbon dioxide and why is it so hazardous?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, but additional air pollutants—such as methane—also cause climate change. Different energy sources produce different amounts of these pollutants. To make comparisons clearer, we use a carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e—the amount of carbon dioxide needed to produce an equivalent volume of warming.
By contrast, most renewable energy sources generate little or no global warming emissions. Even when including “lifecycle” outflows of clean energy (i.e. the emissions from each stage of a technology’s life—manufacturing, installation, operation, decommissioning), the global warming emissions linked with renewable energy are negligible.
The air and water pollution released by fossil fuel plants is associated with breathing difficulties, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and a host of other severe problems. The pollution affects everyone: one Harvard University study determined the life-cycle costs and public health consequences of coal to be an estimated $74.6 billion every year.
The bulk of these negative health impacts come from air and water pollution that alternative energy technologies simply don’t present. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems produce electricity with no air pollution emissions. Geothermal and biomass systems release some air pollutants, though total air effusions are much lower than those of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. In addition, wind and solar energy demand virtually no water to produce and thus do not pollute water resources or strain supplies by competing with agriculture, drinking water, or other water necessities. Fossil fuels can have an important impact on water resources: both coal mining and natural gas drilling can poison sources of drinking water, and all thermal power plants, including those powered by coal, gas, and oil, withdraw and use water for cooling. Powerful winds, sunny skies, abundant plant matter, warmth from the earth, and fast-moving water can each render a vast supply of energy. A tiny fraction of US electricity currently comes from these sources, but that could change. Studies have repeatedly shown that renewable energy can contribute a sizable share of future electricity needs, even after accounting for potential constraints.
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