- Analyse climate data for a particular industry/government policy/ to highlight the main concerns and challenges from global warming
- Generate report derived from the data to convince “the industry” it must take action and change
- Is man-made climate change real?
- Role of Politicians, Media and Activists
- Causes of Global Warming
- Potential of green energy
- Cost of green energy
- Conclusion – If not then what? – (Visualized)
“I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival. ” ― Kurt Vonnegut
Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.
In the last 120 years, global temperature has increased by 0.8 °C. The cause has been mainly anthropogenic emissions.. If the same trend continues, the temperature increase could be 6.5–8 °C by 2100. The power sector alone represents around 40% of the energy related emissions and 25% of the total GHG emissions with an average global footprint of 520 gCO2/kWh4. In the heating sector, around 65% of the energy is used for space and water heating and the energy consumption in buildings can translate to around one quarter of the equivalent electricity emissions Therefore, there is a need to take corrective actions to curb this trend and decrease the potential consequences. The solution is seen as a combination of energy efficiency, biomass use, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the use of renewable energy sources (RES). In the last category, there has been a tremendous expansion of wind and solar. In the last 10 years, wind has had an average growth of 22%/year, while solar has 46%. Nevertheless, at present they only represent around 3.6% and 1.1% respectively of the global electricity production ( 24,100 TWh). In the future, these two technologies are expected to represent most of the contribution in RES.
A disadvantage of variable RES (VRE) is their fluctuations in time and space with an associated uncertainty (especially for wind) and lower capacity factors in comparison to conventional technologies.1 There are different flexibility measures to respond to these fluctuations and meet the demand at all times, where storage is one of them, specifically to deal with their temporal component. Storage can provide both upward and downward flexibility, storing energy when there is a generation surplus or lower demand and discharging in the opposite case. Depending on the time scale (milliseconds up to months), there are different roles that storage can play
Many call this phase/process ‘the destruction of nature’. But it’s not really destruction, it’s change. Nature cannot be destroyed. Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, but in so doing opened the way forward for mammals. Today, humankind is driving many species into extinction and might even annihilate itself. But other organisms are doing quite well. Rats and cockroaches,for example, are in their heyday. These tenacious creatures would probably creep out from beneath the smoking rubble of a nuclear Armageddon, ready and able to spread their DNA. Perhaps 65 million years from now, intelligent rats will lookback gratefully on the decimation wrought by humankind, just as we today can thank that dinosaur-busting asteroid.
Is man-made climate change even real?
It’s common today to explain anything and everything as a result of climate change, but the truth is that earth’s climate never rests. It is in constant flux. Every event in history occurred against the background of some climate change.In particular, our planet has experienced numerous cycles of cooling and warming. During the last million years, there has been an ice age on average every 100,000 years. The last one ran from about 75,000 to 15,000 years ago. Not unusually severe for an ice age, it had twin peaks, the first about 70,000 years ago and the second at about 20,000 years ago.
Sceptics argue that: Earth cycles through different climates. We’re still coming out of an ice age, and warmer temp’s are to be expected. Natural phenomena like volcanoes naturally produce millions of tons of CO2, and the environment handles it. But the observed temperatures are increasing a lot more than is expected if we were just coming out of an ice age. Again, some scholars try to exonerate Homo sapiens and blame climate change(which requires them to posit that, for some mysterious reason, the climate in the Caribbean islands remained static for 7,000 years while the rest of the western hemisphere warmed). But in America, the dung ball cannot be dodged. We are the culprits.
As the twenty-first century unfolds, nationalism is fast losing ground. More and more people believe that all of humankind is the legitimate source of political authority, rather than the members of a particular nationality, and that safeguarding human rights and protecting the interests of the entire human species should be the guiding light of politics. The appearance of essentially global problems, such as melting ice caps, nibbles away at whatever legitimacy remains to the independent nation states. No sovereign state will be able to overcome global warming on its own. The Chinese Mandate of Heaven was given by Heaven to solve the problems of humankind.The modern Mandate of Heaven will be given by humankind to solve the problems of heaven, such as the hole in the ozone layer and the accumulation of greenhouse gases. The colour of the global empire may well be green.
We know human activities are driving the increase in CO2 concentrations because atmospheric CO2 contains information about its source. Scientists can tease apart how much CO2 comes from natural sources, and how much comes from combusting fossil fuel sources.
Compared to other carbon sources, carbon from fossil fuels has a distinctly different “signature,” essentially the relative amount of heavier or lighter atoms of carbon (technically δ13C). The more negative the δ13C, the higher the proportion of carbon from fossil fuels.
Over the years, δ13C has decreased while the overall amount of CO2 has increased. This information tells scientists that fossil fuel emissions are the largest contributor of CO2 concentrations since the pre-industrial era.
Sadly, yes. At times, there are so many climate deniers simply because people like to be contrarian. If 2% of scientists have differing views on the data, that’s their chance to be smarter than everyone, even the global community of scientists! In terms of experience, it’s like listening to 100 expert mechanics from across the world in regards to your car. 98 of them say “This is definitely what is wrong with this car. It will break down if you try to drive it” -2 of them say “…maybe it’s fine?” And then you proceed to drive away.
One of those 2 mechanics in this case is a professor from MIT – Richard Lindzen is frequently cited by climate change deniers as being an expert dissenter from the broader scientific consensus. He maintains that his views have not been influenced by the tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees he accepted from the fossil fuel industry. Incidentally, Lindzen has also testified in front of congress on behalf of tobacco companies, arguing that there is weak statistical correlation between cancer and cigarette smoking.
Role of Politicians, Media and Activists
The Trump administration has undermined the fight against climate change by suffocating facts and science on government websites, according to a federal watchdog group that monitors thousands of government pages for changes. A report published by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) on Monday found that language related to climate change has disappeared at an alarming pace since Trump took office in 2016. Across 5,301 pages—ranging from websites belonging to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the US Geological Survey (USGS)—the use of the terms “climate change,” “clean energy,” and “adaptation” plummeted by 26 percent between 2016 and 2018. Of the pages where “climate change” was stricken, more than half belong to the EPA.
According to the report, clear scientific terminology on government websites was often replaced with politicized language such as “energy independence,” a buzzword ripped directly from Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” which demands an increase in fossil fuel production.
Causes of Global Warming
Climate Change is nothing but the deviation from “Normal” weather conditions like Temperature, Rainfall, wind. These “Normal” conditions are very important to sustain the delicate balance which allows life to sustain on our planet. Amidst all of this climate change the question always remains that – Are we as humans accelerating this process or this would have happened even if we weren’t there in this equation?
Broadly this can be categorized into two major sections. One of them is the Natural Causes and the other ones are the Man-Made Causes.
1. Natural Causes:
Climate change can result from either natural processes and factors or more recently due to human activities through our emissions of greenhouse gases. Naturally there many ways by which the climatic conditions in the earth are altered without humans playing any role in it.
1.1 Strength of the sun:
Almost all of the energy that affects the climate on the Earth originates from the Sun. The energy emitted by the sun passes through space until it hits the Earth’s atmosphere. Only about 40 per cent of the solar energy intercepted at the top of the atmosphere passes through to the Earth’s surface. The rest is reflected or absorbed by the atmosphere. The energy output of the sun is not constant, it varies over time and it has an impact on our climate.
1.2 Changes in the orientation of the Earth’s axis of rotation
The Earth rotates around an axis (imagine a line that joins the north and south poles) but the Earth’s axis is not upright, it leans at an angle. This angle changes with time and over about 41 000 years it moves from 22.1 degrees to 24.5 degrees and back again. When the angle increases the summers become warmer and the winters become colder.
1.3 Carbon dioxide content of the oceans
The oceans contain more carbon dioxide (CO2) than the atmosphere and they can also absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. When the CO2 is in the oceans it does not trap heat as it does when it is in the atmosphere. If CO2 leaves the oceans and moves back into the atmosphere this can contribute towards a warmer climate.
1.4 Ocean currents
Global ocean currents. Oceans store a large amount of heat, so that small changes in ocean currents can have a large effect on coastal and global climate. Ocean currents carry heat around the Earth.
The direction of these currents can shift so that different areas become warmer and cooler. Oceans store a large amount of heat, so that small changes in ocean currents can have a large effect on coastal and global climate.
1.5 Vegetation coverage on the land
On a global scale, patterns of vegetation and climate are closely correlated. Vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide and this can buffer some of the effects of global warming.
1.6 Role of Green House Gases:
CO2 is absorbed and emitted naturally as part of the carbon cycle, through plant and animal respiration, volcanic eruptions, and ocean-atmosphere exchange. Methane is produced through natural activities for example, natural wetlands. Earth’s average surface temperature would be tens of degrees colder than today. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, act to make the surface much warmer than this, because they absorb and emit heat energy in all directions (including downwards), keeping Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere warm. Without this greenhouse effect, life as we know it could not have evolved on our planet. Adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere makes it even more effective at preventing heat from escaping into space. When the energy leaving is less than the energy entering, Earth warms until a new balance is established.
Figure 2: Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Level (Source: IPCC, 2007)
2. Man-Made Causes:
2.1 CO2 is the greenhouse gas most commonly produced by human activities and it is responsible for 64% of man-made global warming. Its concentration in the atmosphere is currently 40% higher than it was when industrialisation began. Other greenhouse gases are emitted in smaller quantities, but they trap heat far more effectively than CO2, and in some cases are thousands of times stronger. Methane is responsible for 17% of man-made global warming, nitrous oxide for 6%.
2.2 Scientists have pieced together a record of Earth’s climate, dating back hundreds of thousands of years (and, in some cases, millions or hundreds of millions of years), by analysing a number of indirect measures of climate such as ice cores, tree rings, glacier lengths, pollen remains, and ocean sediments, and by studying changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun. This record shows that the climate system varies naturally over a wide range of time scales. In general, climate changes prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s can be explained by natural causes, such as changes in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, and natural changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.
Increasing livestock farming. Cows and sheep produce large amounts of methane when they digest their food.
Fertilisers containing nitrogen produce nitrous oxide emissions. Fluorinated gases produce a very strong warming effect, up to 23 000 times greater than CO2. An increase of 2°C compared to the temperature in pre-industrial times is seen by scientists as the threshold beyond which there is a much higher risk that dangerous and possibly catastrophic changes in the global environment will occur. For this reason, the international community has recognised the need to keep warming below 2°C.
2.3 Changes in Sun’s Intensity:
Changes in the sun’s intensity have influenced Earth’s climate in the past. For example, the so-called “Little Ice Age” between the 17th and 19th centuries may have been partially caused by a low solar activity phase from 1645 to 1715, which coincided with cooler temperatures. The “Little Ice Age” refers to a slight cooling of North America, Europe, and probably other areas around the globe. Changes in solar energy continue to affect climate. However, over the last 11-year solar cycle, solar output has been lower than it has been since the mid-20th century, and therefore does not explain the recent warming of the earth. Similarly, changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit as well as the tilt and position of Earth’s axis affect temperature on very long timescales (tens to hundreds of thousands of years), and therefore cannot explain the recent warming.
2.4 Wind Speed Rise:
Wind speeds and wave heights over the world’s oceans have been steadily increasing for the last quarter of a century, a new long-term study shows. The researchers at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne say the trend could also have an effect on the transfer of energy between the sea and the atmosphere – one of the great unknowns in climate change calculations.
Now many would think that rising wind speed is a good sign so that we will be able to use more wind turbines and harness wind energy but that’s not the case. The areas which show increased wind speeds in the study also show increased wave heights.
Potential of Green Energy & Countermeasures to Global Warming
Examples of Countermeasures
1. Green Energy History
To try and counteract this rising tide of worldwide rising temperatures, the source of humankind energy has been identified as a potential goldmine to reduce this increase. As previously mentioned, the increase in rising temperatures is related to the increase in carbon dioxide levels worldwide, which in turn is related to the burning of fossil fuels, defined as any class of material with a biological origin that can be used as a source of energy (Kopp 2019).
Some of the more common types of renewable energy include solar, wind, biomass and tidal. The history of renewable energy goes back to prehistoric times, when energy could be harnessed from the wind itself; to propel boats along the Nile River over 7000 years ago (Wind Energy n.d.). When humankind first thinks of renewable energy, their thoughts go to modern inventions; wind turbines, solar panels and the like. These examples of modern technology will be the focus of this project, where we fully discuss the need to invest in green energy for a sustainable future.
Figure 1: Example of Dutch Polder Mill (Stokhuyzen 1962)
Wind energy was used, and is still used to this day, to propel boats upon bodies of water worldwide. The next leap forward for renewable energy was to use the flow of river to turn vertical-axis windmills to grind alternative kinds of grains, before it became a major component in the food production industry in the 11th century. This led to the Dutch refining the vertical axis wind turbine to drain the marshes of the River Rhine, thus reclaiming the land the Netherlands and expanding their territory. (Wind Energy n.d.).
2. Modern Green Energy Technology
Three distinct types of renewable energy will be discussed in this section as potential countermeasures to worldwide rising temperatures; wind, solar, and tidal energy. Figure 2 from Smil shows the global energy consumption, with the top three sources being fossil fuels and their combined total accounting for over 87% of the 2017 total energy consumption.
Figure 2: Global Consumption of Fuels (Smil 2017)
Focusing on the previous decade and a half, the rise in the renewable energies can be seen in Figure 3. This rise can be attributed to a global movement to move away from global warming causations. Comparing this rise to the trend of Google Searches for the term “global warming” shows interest peaking due to several events over the past 15 years, demonstrated in Figure 4.
Figure 3: Focus on Renewable Energy Consumption over the last 15 years (Smil 2017)
Figure 4: Google Searches for “Global Warming” (Google Trends 2019)
The four main peaks occur around events which peaked the general public’s interest in global warming; first occurring in September 2019 when AL Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was released, second peak occurs in December 2009 after the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the next peak occurred in May 2017 after US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement fearing for US jobs, the final peak occurs in October 2019, when a young girl from Sweden called Greta Thunberg influenced a worldwide movement to raise climate change awareness with the Global Climate Strikes supported by 4 million people worldwide.
3. Fossil Fuels vs Green Energy
To refresh on the goal of this project; we have solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass grouped together as renewable energies and natural gas, coal and oil grouped as fossil fuels. Renewable energies are increasing in popularity each year; wind and solar only accounted for 4% of global energy generating capacity in 2010, but this has been forecasted to increase to 18% by the conclusion of the current decade (Bloomberg NEF, 2019). This is encouraging as the increase in renewable energy sources will coincide with a decrease in the dependency and use of fossil fuels, but they still remain as the leading provider of energy for the US for 2018, accounting for 80% of the energy sources for the US (Energy Information Administration 2019).
Figure 5: US Energy Sources 2018 (Energy Information Administration 2019)
Renewables have been increasing year on year, but fossil fuels still reign supreme. In order to attempt to reverse several global warming policies have been introduced, agreed upon, and signed by major countries worldwide. The latest plan introduced in 2015 is the Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries, which calls for a global effort to reduce worldwide temperatures. The official agreement is to limit global temperatures to 2°C greater than pre-industrial temperatures, while pursuing efforts to further limit these increases to 1.5°C (Denchak 2018). The Paris Agreement does not include specific goals for each country, some countries contributions are listed below:
· China: Reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 levels by 2030.
· United States: Cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025.
· India: Generate 40% of electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
Figure 6: Global Carbon Emissions 2017 (Le Quéré et al. 2018)
These 3 countries accounted for nearly 50% of 2017 carbon dioxide emissions, if they agree to and implement climate changes outlined in the Paris Agreement, they will contribute significant results to global emission reduction.
· China: Reduction in CO2 emissions from 0.000684 tonnes/dollar to 0.000274 tonnes/dollar.
· United States: Greenhouse gases reduced from 6.1 tera-tonnes to 1.6 tera-tonnes.
· India: Fossil fuel sources to increase from 19% to 40%.
These goals all have a significant renewable energy component, there is a fear among countries that the investment required to reduce carbon emissions will monumentally outweigh the benefits of doing nothing.
Cost of Green Energy
Results of Potential Countermeasures
McKinsey produced a report in 2009 which reported the benefits and costs of introducing greenhouse gases through numerous methods, examples such as commercial insulation retrofitting to converting to cars to plug-in hybrid. The report goes into detail by comparing the cost of introducing the changes versus the cost of continuing with business as usual, with an example of cars being produced in 2030 with electric engines versus continuing with diesel or petrol engines, this is demonstrated in Figure 7.
The diagram simply shows the items which have an implementation cost of less then €60 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent saved, items which investors view as attractive. The benefit of introducing these can reduce the effects of global warming, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide and reducing the global rising temperatures since the Industrial Revolution (McKinsey & Company 2009).
Figure 7: Global Abatement Cost of Implementing Greenhouse Gases Countermeasures (McKinsey & Company 2009)
Figure 8: Results of Abatement Opportunities by 2030 (McKinsey & Company 2009).
4.2. Increasing Accessibility of Renewable Energy as an Alternative to Fossil Fuels
Investments in renewable energy have grown exponentially over the last 15 years, in line with the increases in renewable sources as an energy source shown in Figure 3. The biggest investments, worldwide year on year, have been in the solar and wind industries. Figure 9 shows how these investments have been distributed by industry, these investments have allowed the price of solar modules to decrease in conjunction with the cumulative capacity of solar panels worldwide; as the number of solar panels have increased worldwide, the cost of producing them have decreased (Figure 10).
Figure 9: Increasing Investment in Renewable Energy Sources (IRENA 2016)
Figure 10: Reducing the Cost of Solar Energy Compared to Worldwide Capacity (Lafond 2017)
Conclusion – If not then what? – (Visualized)
It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it’s happening right now. It doesn’t matter If you think 9 of the 10 past years being the hottest in recorded history was a coincidence. If that process of CO2 liberation begins, humans cannot stop it. Period. To ensure the longevity of our species we need to do everything in our power to make sure it never does. The following charts shows how we could half the footprint by 2030
In this section of the conclusion we will be looking into whether green/renewable energy is enough to solve the world’s energy crisis. The following graphs would give you a good idea of our hypothesis.
Total energy generation potential
Other than the cities shown below, Dublin could also be under waters. “Speaking earlier this week, Prof Peter Thorne, one of the country’s foremost climate change experts, warned that over the coming decade, a catastrophic storm during high tide will leave thousands of homes, businesses and landmark buildings in Dublin under water.”
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