There are many issues that plague our world today ranging from starvation and sickness to war and cyber attacks. Though these issues are huge on their own, the largest of all issues is in our energy consumption. Not every is sick. Not everyone goes hungry. Not everyone is a soldier or a hacker, but we are all consumers of energy. The worst part of all is that many people have no idea what impact their energy consumption has on the world. People often don’t even know when they’re consuming energy. People say, “Oh, I don’t really use much energy. I always turn the lights out when I leave the room,” but then they throw out three polystyrene containers a day along with matching sets of plastic cutlery and wash near empty loads of laundry. People do not understand that a great deal of energy goes into all of the things we do and use throughout the day.
The two greatest issues that have to do with energy consumption are our limited resources for energy consumption and the adverse effects of each of our energy usage methods. For a little background, this is how we provide our energy today: “Oil and coal currently provide about 63% of global energy, followed by natural gas, nuclear and hydro, with the rest of the renewables — wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels combined — making up less than 2% today. (These figures don’t include biomass, like wood, straw and dung, burned in cooking fires and to provide heat, which still makes up a surprising 10% of energy today.)” (Source.)
Oil, natural gas, and coal are perhaps the most troublesome sources of energy. The first issue is: according to current reserve predictions performed by BP, there are currently only 1,687.9 billion barrels left for us to recover in the world. According to estimates by Ecotricity (Britan’s leading green energy supplier,) judging by only our current consumption of oil, we will run out of oil in the year 2052. Once we run out of oil, we will focus on natural gas and coal to fulfill our energy needs. If we increase our natural gas consumption to compensate for the absence of oil, we will run out of natural gas by 2060. At that point, we will have to rely almost entirely on coal to fulfill our energy demand. Luckily enough for us, we would have enough coal to last us 28 years, all the way to 2088. The problem is, by the year 2088 we will no longer have any sources of fossil fuels to fulfill our energy demand, not to mention the horrifying amount of carbon dioxide gas we would have released into the atmosphere at that point. (Source.) These predictions are all based upon the current reserves that we know of, so the timeline may be off by a few years considering the reserves that we have not yet discovered, but the point is made. If we are to ensure the survival of our current ways of life, we will have to turn our focus onto renewable sources of energy and we will have to innovate in them. This will be our future; we have no other choice. “As the Saudi Oil Minister said in the 1970s, ‘The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.’”
What I say next is often regarded as a political stance, but in all reality it is strictly a scientific fact. Climate change is real and it is happening. As David King, the Former Chief Scientific Adviser in Britain, said “Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism.” A report from the United States Environmental Protection Agency says, “Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.” (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/.) Climate change causes innumerable problems, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, the oceans warming and becoming more acidic, and most famously, the melting of the polar ice caps.
Some people argue that climate change is something that is natural and not something that the human race has caused. The problem with this is that it is basically saying, “although we have been doing many things that are known to worsen this issue, they are not the cause of the issue.” Human beings are almost solely responsible for climate change. Experts predict that one-fourth of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the warming trend continues at its current rate. (Wildlife at Risk.) Some may say that they don’t care if a few animals die out, but what they fail to see is that this could drastically alter many ecosystems. If ecosystems are altered, we may face challenges in areas such as agriculture, which would be detrimental to the human population.
Climate change is caused by numerous human actions such as fossil fuel consumption, industrial processes, deforestation, and a few agricultural processes. The issue with all of these actions is that they either add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere or they interfere with the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The function of greenhouse gases is to trap heat within the atmosphere. To clarify, greenhouse gases are not all bad. The natural level is actually important to the Earth. Without greenhouse gases, UV radiation would kill us all, there would be nothing to keep the heat within the atmosphere, there would be no gases to breathe, and the sky would be black and filled with stars all around the clock.
There is evidence that suggests that humans are the greatest cause in climate change due to an increase in greenhouse gases. For example, “Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased by almost 40% since pre-industrial times,” (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html.) CO2 is not the only gas that is increasing at this rate. See these graphs to see how greenhouse gas concentrations have changed over time.
Our current energy consumption and methods are ruining the environment. We are running out of resources, and soon enough the Earth will not be healthy enough to live in to be called our home. If we do not change our actions, there will be drastic consequences.