Causes and effects of global warming (random order)

Below is a short summary for all articles related to climate change. Click on a title in the list to read the full article. To re-sort the list click on a tab above. If you can't find what you are looking for, try Search in the main menu above.

What is thermosolar power or concentrating solar power (CSP)?

What is thermosolar power, or "desert energy"? Thermosolar energy means generating electricity from the heat of the sun, and not, as photovoltaic panels do, from sunlight. Since a large quantity of solar heat is required, evidently this must be done in the desert. A short introduction in this promising technology to produce electricity from a renewable source:

About the cost advantage of nuclear energy

Electricity from nuclear energy is considered to be economical and very cost effective, in particular compared to electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, water, sun, biomass or geothermal energy.

There are two main reasons for the relative low cost of nuclear power:

  • Research and development for nuclear applications has been financed by the government, therefore these costs don't get transferred to the cost of electricity produced from nuclear power. However the cost of R&D for renewable energy sources is mostly financed privately and therefore added to the production cost. It is therefore included in the cost of renewable electricity.
  • Nuclear power plants are underinsured for legal liability. The risk for nuclear catastrophes is not carried by the owner of the nuclear power plant, it is carried by the whole nation. Electricity from nuclear power would cost at least twice as much than today if operator companies of nuclear power plants were to insure the plants for the real risks.

 

Definition of sustainability - what is sustainable?

 

«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 .

Nuclear power phase-out pros and cons

Nuclear phase-out means the discontinuation of usage of nuclear power for electrical energy production. Usually because of concerns about nuclear energy, existing plants are either shut down or not renewed after being retired.

Many European countries have decided to phase-out nuclear power, for details see further below. Under the umbrella of global warming, lobbying organizations of the atomic industry are putting high pressure on several governments to postpone the planned shut down of nuclear power stations or even to cancel the phase-out altogether. Their main argument is the relatively low CO2 emission of nuclear power compared to fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas. However nuclear energy should rather be compared to sustainable energies and not to fossils.

The general pros and cons of nuclear power are discussed on a separate page. Here we concentrate on the pros and cons of nuclear phase-out.

Renewable energy going strong for Germany

German manufacturers of wind farms were able to consolidate their dominant position on the international market in 2005, says the German Energy Agency (DENA) in a press release on its renewable energy initiatives. With an increase of 55% in exports, reaching 2.87 billion Euro, they acquired 38% of the global market. According to market indicators the 2005 export quota has increased to reach 71%. The growing use of renewable energy sources in North America and Asia helped the German renewable energy industry to take the lead in almost all technology sectors.

Prediction of energy consumption world-wide

Prediction of the world-wide energy consumtion by fuel type

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.

We have a serious problem

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...

 

Global warming - it's about you

Global warming causes: CO2 concentration

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.

Investments in sustainable energies

Invest in renewable energies - not in fossile «Aiding oil, harming the climate» is a new report from the organisation "Oil Change International", which shows dramatically that the major investments still go into the oil, gas and coal sector instead of renewable energies. For more than 25 years, wealthy countries have been using aid and other foreign assistance to subsidize the expansion of the international oil industry, a practice known as “Oil Aid”. It is impossible to actively subsidize the expansion of the oil industry and effectively fight global warming at the same time.

The benefits of modesty

Does it do any good for Africans suffering from drought if I reduce my personal water consumption? Why should I reduce the CO2 emissions and save energy? Does it reduce starvation anywhere in the world if I eat less?

Living in moderation is «out» because it seems to be full of deprivations and limitations. Read here why it is on the contrary rather full of opportunities for the personal development. It is an indispensable precondition to get in perpetual harmony, joy and (self-)confidence.

Ocean acidification - another effect of global warming

Fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes release over six billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. The consequences of these greenhouse gas emissions are often discussed in terms of rising global temperatures, but global warming is not the only threat from increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). Ocean acidification, which occurs when CO2 in the atmosphere reacts with water to create carbonic acid, has already increased ocean acidity by 30 percent. Although the chemistry of this effect is well understood and not much debated, the full consequences of ocean acidification for marine ecosystems and human well-being are only beginning to be revealed.

Growing world population

One of the major problems for our future is the ever growing number of people living on Earth. We are referring to this in several articles on this site. Below you can find first a graph about the population by geographical area and by year, starting in 1950 until the year 2050.

The second graph shows the population density by geographical area by year, i.e. the number of people living per square kilometre. Further down, we provide lists of the current and predicted population by country. Click on one of the links below to jump directly to a list or graph:

Radiation wavelength and greenhouse effect

This article tries to answer a question about the greenhouse effect: "Greenhouse gases prevent the infrared rays from leaving the Earth's atmosphere, but why do they not prevent additional solar radiation from entering the atmosphere?"

The key is the different wavelength (or different frequency) of solar light and infrared light. Let's have a look at the greenhouse effect (see also the graph about radion transmitted by atmosphere below):

Definition for global warming - what is global warming?

Definition of global warming: Global warming is the observed and projected increases in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans. The Earth's average temperature rose about 0.6° Celsius (1.1° Fahrenheit) in the 20th century, see temperature graphs below.

Pros and cons of nuclear power

Pros and cons of nuclear power plants

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.

 

 

Nuclear power for you - nuclear waste for the others?

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.

Carbon footprint howto

Before you can start calculating your personal carbon footprint, you must create a user account on http://timeforchange.org. Don't worry, your email address won't be given away or misused.

Is nuclear power a global warming solution?

The contribution of nuclear energy to reduce the cause of global warming is only 10%

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.

How to mitigate the cause of global warming

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!

 

Are cows the cause of global warming?

A cow does on overage release between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year. Methane is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2). But the negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. Therefore the release of about 100 kg Methane per year for each cow is equivalent to about 2'300 kg CO2 per year.

Global warming solutions – sensible energy consumption

Global warming solutions: Energy mix 2003In 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.