Recently, people in our society have become increasingly concerned with global warming. Widespread industrialization, vehicle emissions, rampant energy usage and massive deforestation have contributed to this problem by creating a blanket of “greenhouse gases” around the Earth. Sunlight is able to penetrate the layer of greenhouse gases; however, heat reflected from the earth’s surface is trapped, gradually contributing to an increase in the overall temperature of our planet. Experts assert that global warming may cause a dramatic increase in our ocean levels, unpredictable changes in our weather patterns, the eradication of many plant and animal species and many other highly undesirable effects. Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner energy sources may help to alleviate this global warming crisis. The following are some examples of such alternative sources of energy.
Renewable energy sources, such as wind or hydroelectric power, may be viable alternatives to fossil fuel energy. These energy sources are referred to as renewable due to their virtually limitless availability. Harnessing the power of rivers or even ocean tides creates hydroelectric power. Wind power is created by using the force of the wind to power large wind turbines. When creating wind power or hydroelectric power, it is unnecessary to burn fossil fuels or to utilize other environmentally harmful chemical processes. As a result, relying primarily on such alternative energy sources would be extremely beneficial to our environment.
Another renewable energy source is solar power. Solar power cells are capable of converting light energy from the sun into electrical energy on a massive scale. Passive solar heating allows individual households to convert the energy from the sun’s light to heat water or regulate the home’s temperature. While solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuel energy, it is most accessible in sunny, warm regions of the world. Furthermore, the solar panels necessary to produce the energy are very expensive.
Nuclear fission is another alternative energy source. In the nuclear fission process, energy is released when heat from split uranium atoms is used to power large generators. While nuclear fission does not directly produce greenhouse gases, a small amount of fossil fuels are used to mine the uranium ores necessary for the nuclear fission process. Although nuclear fission creates fewer emissions that other energy sources, radioactive waste is an unfortunate bi-product of this process. Therefore, safe disposal and containment of this radioactive waste is a difficult problem when considering large scale conversion to nuclear fission.
Another alternative source for energy may be available in the form of burning garbage, wood, or methane. Although burning garbage produces carbon dioxide, ultimately, it does not contribute to the overall number of greenhouse gases in our environment. This is because the majority of our waste is either burned or left to decay anyway, and would otherwise release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Similarly, replanting trees would help to offset the carbon dioxide emitted when burning wood.
Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by utilizing a renewable, non-polluting energy source such as hydrogen is another possible solution to the current crisis. Although hydrogen has potential as an alternative fuel source, there will need to be many technological and structural changes before our world is able to rely on hydrogen as its primary source of energy.
In order to halt the global warming process, we need to take immediate action. Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner energy sources such as those described above is one of the most important steps we can take to preserve our planet for future generations.