The role of alternate energy in curbing carbon emissions

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The past few years have had an intensified debate on whether global warming and climate change is a hoax or serious problems. Scientists have however confirmed that atmospheric temperatures have dramatically risen in the past one century therefore rendering global warming and subsequent climate change a serious problem. Humans in the world over rely on burning fossil fuels to fulfill their energy requirements. Carbon dioxide, the major green house gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels, traps heat energy resulting to an increase in atmospheric temperatures. To curb the effects of the release of green house gases, there is need to substitute fossil fuels and natural gas with alternative energy. Alternative energy refers to the sources of energy that have equal or better performance as compared to the use of fossil fuels only that they have almost, if not zero, effects in nature in terms of the release of greenhouse gases (Danon & Bettiati, 2011).

Alternative energy is mostly renewable and readily available in nature. Sources of alternative energy include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric power. Apart from the fact that fossil fuels and natural gas pollute the environment when used to generate energy, it is important to note the high rate at which these sources of energy are dwindling. The world has more than enough reasons to invest in alternative energy. Let us now look at how each of the alternative sources of energy works to ensure that there are limited or no harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

Biomass

Biomass is a resource that has low carbon content and it comprises of plant materials created by photosynthesis. These include different grasses and sugarcane alongside other green plants and algae. Photosynthetic plants are readily available in most parts of the world making biomass a very viable source of energy.The burning of biomass releases a considerable amount of carbon dioxide through the carbon cycle that is natural. However, the carbon dioxide released is re-absorbed by green plants and used in the process of photosynthesis to create more biogas. Such plants are again burnt to produce energy. This makes biogas a renewable source of energy that is also not harmful (Chbme.eng.usf.edu, 2015).

Wind and Solar energy

These two sources of energy emit no carbon to the atmosphere whatsoever in addition and it is naturally available. Wind energy has proved to be a competitive source of energy over time due to availability of large wind farms and large turbines. Small systems of wind energy produce enough Kilowatts to take care of the electricity needs of a household. Generating solar power involves converting light to electricity (photovoltaic) and light to power through heat (solar thermal). Solar energy though currently usable, is expected to grow much more with technological advancements aimed at increasing the effectiveness and cutting on the cost of solar cells. The only disadvantage of these two sources of energy is that they can never be predicted, for example, wind can be too weak to turn the turbines but well maintained solar and wind systems can last for up to 30 years making these two sources of energy cheaper. The use of solar and wind energy will not only prevent carbon emission from the burning of fossil fuels but will also provide opportunities for Research and development, investment, creation of jobs and the subsequent growth of economies (Danon & Bettiati, 2011).

Hydroelectric power

The ever increasing demand for energy has prompted many nations that are endowed with water resources to invest in hydro power. This source of energy emits no carbon to the atmosphere in the process of generating electricity. Carbon and methane is only released during construction, decommissioning and decomposition phases. Decomposing vegetation that is found in the flooded areas to create a reservoir, produces methane. While the use of cement in construction also produces large quantities of carbon dioxide. Additionally, construction might necessitate removal of trees (carbon sinks) to create space for the construction site. However, these releases are only temporary and can be offset by a well built dam that is meant to last over 100 years.

Nuclear energy

This is the energy that is confined inside an atom. It is released by the nucleus of an atom as a result of nuclear fission, radioactive decay, and nuclear fission. The energy amount emitted by nuclear fission of a given mass of uranium is about 250000 times greater than that emitted by combustion equal mass of carbon. Nuclear energy emits no carbon because its heat is derived from fission rather than from burning fuels. Nuclear fission is the main process that is used for generating nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is not only used to generate electricity but also has many uses if different isotopes of the same element are used. One of the uses is for military applications and nuclear weapons for example the atomic bomb uses nuclear energy to explode and the submarines use nuclear technology for propulsion. It is also useful in hospitals, for instance, radiation therapy that is necessary for the treatment of malignant tumors, radiopharmaceuticals, and teletherapy for cancer treatment among many other uses. Nuclear technology has also led to increased agricultural production in the less developed nations through control of pests, improved crop varieties, and best use of water resources (Watt, n.d.). The application of isotopes significantly increase preservation of food and over 35 countries have permitted the irradiation of certain foods. Also the application of isotopes can be used to solve problems such as acid rain and the green house effect. Therefore if the ultimate goal is to reduce carbon emission then nuclear energy can be an option.

Geothermal energy

Since geothermal energy involves no combustion, there are no emissions that come from geothermal plants. This helps to offset carbon dioxide (that accounts for 82% of the total green house gases in the atmosphere) emission from other sources of energy. The development of geothermal power plans minimizes any kinds of destruction to vegetation. This helps to protect trees that act as carbon sinks. Lastly, geothermal power unlike fossil fuels energy, does not involve mining, processing and transport in the process of generating electricity therefore cutting down on unnecessary emissions (Geo-energy.org, 2015).

Apart from tremendously reducing and offsetting carbon emissions, renewable energy sources/alternative energy has the potential to contribute to the economic growth of different countries of the world by providing opportunities for investment, creating jobs and generating tax revenue. Investing in clean energy will see the current generation comfortably survive beyond the 21st century and render this planet habitable for future generations.

References

Chbme.eng.usf.edu,. (2015). Biomass & Biofuel Engineering | Chemical & Biomedical Engineering | University of South Florida. Retrieved 23 November 2015, from http://chbme.eng.usf.edu/research/biomass/

Danon, S., & Bettiati, D. (2011). Reducing Emissions from Deforestaton and Forest Degradation (REDD+) a What is Behind the Idea and What is the Role of UN-REDD and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF)?. South-East European Forestry, 2(2), 95-99. http://dx.doi.org/10.15177/seefor.11-10

Geo-energy.org,. (2015). Geothermal Basics - Environment. Retrieved 23 November 2015, from http://geo-energy.org/geo_basics_environment.aspx

Watt, A. Work Less to Pollute Less? What Contribution Can or Must Working Time Reduction Play in Reducing Carbon Emissions?. SSRN Electronic Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2208388

sheldon

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