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Almost 100% of the observed temperature increase over the last 50 years has been due to the increase in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas concentrations like water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and ozone. Greenhouse gases are those gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (see below). The largest contributing source of greenhouse gas is the burning of fossil fuels leading to the emission of carbon dioxide.
Read on and see graphs about the greenhouse effect and global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.
As a result of the current discussion how further global warming could be prevented or at least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in everybody's - or at least in many politician's - mind. It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of nuclear power generation, its disadvantages are rarely mentioned.
Below is a short summary of arguments for and against nuclear power plants.
A carbon footprint is defined as:
The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
It took more than 20 years to broadly accept that mankind is causing global warming with the emission of greenhouse gases. The drastic increase in the emission of CO2 (carbon dioxide) within the last 30 years caused by burning fossil fuels has been identified as the major reason for the change of temperature in the atmosphere.
More than 80% of the world-wide energy demand is currently supplied by the fossil fuels coal, oil or gas. It will be impossible to find alternative sources, which could replace fossil fuels in the short or medium term. The energy demand is simply too high.
Global warming is a typical global phenomena, where the causer of the emission does not automatically suffer from it himself. Cause and effect are separated both in time as well as with regard to geography.
In the past, there was a more or less direct relation between the energy consumption (mainly fossil fuels) and the welfare of a country.
This makes it very difficult to reach consensus between the countries about the required steps to solve the problem. The Kyoto protocol shows that the following of the agreement will be doubtful at best if no automatic sanctions take into effect for countries violating it.
Given the severe consequences of global warming, the above sounds quite hopeless for our future. Read on to see how we all are involved in this and how we can benefit from taking our personal responsibility.
According to the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) and to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world-wide energy consumption will on average continue to increase by 2% per year.
A yearly increase by 2% leads to a doubling of the energy consumption every 35 years. This means the world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be twice as high in the year 2040 compared to today (2007).
By far the highest increase in world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be from all three fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas (see graph)! The renewable energies are predicted to grow as well, but much less than fossil energies. Nuclear energy is predicted to grow relatively moderate.
It is only possible to mitigate global warming if the world-wide consumption of fossil fuels can be drastically reduced in the next 10 to 15 years. There is simply no room for a scenario as it is predicted by the International Energy Agency IEA.
It is also obvious that no combination of alternative technologies can replace the current usage of fossil fuels. There is simply not enough non-fossil fuel available for this. In order to mitigate global warming, we have to use the available energy much more efficiently. But this won't be enough either: We will have to change our behaviour to reduce our personal energy consumption. We must change our current live style and seriously strive for a sustainable living .
Read on for details and background...
A number of people have asked about the implications of using plastic bags on the personal carbon footprint as well as on the environment in general. There are some comparisons between paper bags and plastic bags available which clearly show that it all depends on how many times these plastic or paper bags are being used.
Littering is probably the severest problem related to plastic bags. Nevertheless let's now have a look at the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the production and incineration of plastic bags.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a strong increase of the carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. Additionally, IEA investigated to which extent the above mentioned emissions of CO2 could be prevented if politics applied rigorous measures.
From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%). Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.
This result is surprising, in particular if you think about how nuclear power is praised as solution to global warming by politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It seems like they would (again) head into the wrong direction.
Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some politicians propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!
The graph shows the total CO2 emission in million tons by country for the year 2002. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI). The CO2 emissions for the year 2006 are about 12 to 15% higher than the figures shown here.
The second chart shows the CO2 emissions by capita and country for the year 2002. Data source was again the World Resources Institute (WRI). Some remarks to these values:
The need for electricity has constantly risen world-wide over the last years. This is not only true for the so-called developing countries but also and in particular for all well-developed countries. In order to fulfil the demand, obviously additional power plants have to be built.
Which technology is best for generating electricity? This question certainly has to be answered on a case by case base. But it is very concerning that nuclear power plants more and more seem to be chosen as "the" technology of the future.
We show the urgent need to act in order to be able to mitigate global warming. For this purpose, we simulate different scenarios for the future emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and calculate their effect on the rise of the average temperature on Earth.
As a result, it still seems to be possible to avoid the most devastating effects on our environment. However we must start acting immediately. The longer we are talking instead of acting, the more drastic measures are needed.
Global warming is not about the others, global warming is about us and our personal behaviour . Everyone must assume responsibility and bring down his or her personal contribution .
The carbon dioxide emissions (carbon footprint) caused by our personal behavior is driven to a large extent by the type and quality of our nourishment. The amount of greenhouse gases caused by the production of food is different from one food type to the other (see table below). Worst is meat and in particular beef.
A environmental friendly and climate change friendly nourishment is characterised as follows:
«Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.»
This is probably the most broadly accepted definition of sustainability developed in 1987, by the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission). Instead of sustainability, often terms like sustainable development, sustainable prosperity or sustainable genuine progress are used. They more or less all mean the same as defined above. Details can be found e.g. in Wikipedia .
In search for global warming solutions, people are suddenly asking for alternative energies. However, more than 80% of our energy is currently taken from the fossil sources oil, gas or coal. It is absolutely impossible to supply this much of energy from alternative sources within the next 10 to 20 years.
Therefore, we should first ask how much energy is really required to have a good quality of life, instead of taking our current energy consumption for granted or even indispensable. In a second step, we can then look for potential energy sources to fulfil this need.
One of the few pros of nuclear power is the relatively low emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the major causes of global warming. For this reason, it has been proposed as "the" method to mitigate the effects of climate change. However a recent life cycle analysis showed that nuclear power produces 4 to 10 times higher CO2 emissions per kWh electricity than renewable energies.