For the First Time in 40 Years… Economic Growth Hasn’t Lead to an Increase in CO2 Emissions.

On an average, people tend to commonly associate CO2 emissions with the economy. So, what I am trying to get at is that many people think that if there is a global economic growth, in correlation, we expect to see an increase int he CO2 emissions as well. However, for the first time in over 40 years, we are seeing that this is not the case. This my friends is amazing news for all of us who care about the environment. While this is great news, the question still remains; what has triggered this trend to finally changed? Well, there are several factors and the International Energy Agency has evaluated all of the reasons that they believe that there hasn’t been an increase, but rather a decrease in the CO2 emissions, even though there was an increase in economic growth.

China is the worlds largest CO2 emitter and it is also the country where a majority of the worlds industrial work takes place. Over the past two years, China has taken an initiative to reduce the amount of CO2 that they emit by shifting towards using renewable sources of energy, rather than using non-renewable sources of energy. In China’s case, they have led the world in the amount of solar installations with the hope of cleaning up the countries polluted air. In figure 1, you will see that by the end of 2015, China hopes to add as much as 15 gigawatts of solar energy, which will power around 16 million houses. They want to accomplish this task by installing cheap solar panels on top of commercial buildings, rather than just confiding panels in the rural areas.

Figure 1.

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Additionally, the second factor that has attributed for there to be a decrease in the amount of energy used is the idea that awareness causes people to change their behaviors. People are greedy. Unfortunately,  this is the hard truth. If you tell them that they will save money by buying certain types of technology, they will be willing to do it. This has been happening all over the U.S. The more aware people become about the energy that they are using, the more willing they are to change their behaviors and their electronics. Over the past year, home energy efficiency has decreased drastically, causing there to be an overall decrease in energy. In figure 2, you will see that there is a decrease in the amount of energy in a per capita basis as well as a GDP basis. 

Figure 2.

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The third, which can be overruled, but it is still just as important. The IEA has reported that one of the reasons there is a decrease in CO2 emissions is because transportation has become more efficient. Cars are now being made in order to be more efficient.

Now, the final reason that CO2 emissions have decreased, while the economy prospers, is due to the fact that there was a natural gas boom, due to fracking. Robert Starvins, a leading environmental economist said, “This has, in turn, led to significant increases in dispatch of gas-fired electricity generation, relative to dispatch of coal-fired generation, as well as increased investment in new gas-fired electric generation capacity, and cessation of investment in new coal generation in the United States.” 

Now, lets rejoice. While the world still needs to make huge strides to bettering the environmental conditions, the progress we are making is incredible. China, the worlds leading CO2 emitter has come to its senses and so is the rest of the world.

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Are American Wind Farms Helping the World?

To someone who may not know, American Wind Farms are exactly what they sound like; they are large patches of land in America with wind turbines as tall as a 30-story building.  These wind turbines have blades, which are rotating at a speed of 200mph, and provide hundreds of homes with clean and renewable energy. The difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy is that nonrenewable energy cannot be used again, while renewable energy can be recycled as well as used again. Some examples of nonrenewable energy are fossil fuels, natural gas, and coal, while some examples of renewable energy are solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy. The importance of using renewable energy is that even though it can be considered to be the most expensive source of energy, it is beneficial to the planet because it is clean. As I mentioned before, wind energy is one type of renewable energy and it is doing wonders around the world, especially in the United States. Over the past four decades, we are using more wind energy and it is providing an increasing amount of energy. Now a days, an average wind farm generates around 50,000 megawatts of energy. Figure 1 is a picture of a American Wind Farm that generates enough energy to support over 100 homes in its neighboring communities.

Figure 1.

turbines

Not only do these Wind Farms help provide the world with clean energy, but they are also helping the economy. While building these wind turbines can be expensive, they are helping save several thousands of dollars in local energy bills. The Wind Farms are also providing 75,000 americans with jobs. These wind turbines are providing a chance for workers from American communities to prosper. American companies are providing more than 65% of the parts needed for each wind turbine. Figures 2 and 3 show the factories where the parts are actually created.

Figure 2.

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Figure 3.

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In addition to this, as wind energy becomes more popular and the demand increases, a uprising worry is if congress will continue to support an important wind energy incentive, known as the Production Tax Credit. The Production Tax Credit provides financial support from the federal government for the development of renewable energy sources. If this incentive expires, then that means that several individuals will be out of jobs. It also means that there will be no chance that wind energy will cover 20% of Americas total energy used by 2030.  Furthermore, if the incentive is passed, then there will be a projected growth in the number of jobs as well as the amount of renewable energy that is used. Therefore, it can be determined that not only is wind energy good for the environment, but it is also good for the economy.

Has Energy Wastage Really Decreased Over the Years?

Over the years technological advancements have been made with the hopes of making individuals lives easier. However, there have also been several advancements made with the hopes of helping reduce the energy wastage. The problem is that as technology advances, the price of technology increases, and the idea of trying to conserve energy becomes less appealing. According to a report in 2005, commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 38.9% of the total energy consumption in 2005 in the US. In 2005, 53.7% of the total is used by residential buildings, while the remaining 46.3% is used by commercial buildings. The US has always been the larges consumer of energy, which also leads it to be the largest contributor to energy wastage. If you look at the Figure 1 below, you can clearly see that the US uses more energy than any other country.

Figure 1.

Enerrgy-use-PerCapita

You may ask yourself why the US uses so much energy, especially when we have a smaller population that other countries. There are many reasons, but one reason is because we are the worlds leader in oil consumption, consuming up to 25% of the total oil consumption. If you look at Figure 2 you can see that not only has there has been an increase in oil consumption in the US, but also around the world.

Figure 2.

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Now, lets take a closer look at the US. In the United States, a majority of the energy consumption that occurs in building happens in residential buildings, such as homes and apartments. While this may make sense, it also makes it harder to fix. There are more homeowners than commercial business owners, therefore making commercial building energy efficient seems like it is an easier task. More specifically, 51% of the electricity consumed in the US occurs in residential buildings and 74.4% of the total water consumption is used by homeowners in their homes. Water consumption has doubled over a span of 50 years, from 1950 to 2000, causing the average person to use about 100 gallons of water everyday. Furthermore, 4 billion dollars is spent every year in the United States to provide energy to run drinking water and wastewater utilities. By using better efficiency equipment, we can reduce up to 10% of the cost, which is equivalent to 400 million dollars.

Going Back to what I had mentioned before, the reason that energy efficient technology is not used that often is because the price of buying energy efficient equipment is a lot more expensive. However, something that many people don’t understand is that in the long term the investment will help because it will actually help you save money.

A perfect example of this occurred in Four Seasons Resort in Maui. The resort began to make advancements in their technology which costed up to $8 million dollars, however once all of the advancements are done, the resort will save over $1 million. In the long run, not only will they gain their $8 million, but they will save much more than that.

So has Energy wastage changed over the years? In my opinion, I think that energy wastage will decrease, if it hasn’t already because of people who want to make advancements so they don’t waste $94,000 because of a leak.

Changing Biomes in South Africa and it’s Negative Effect

Could it be possible for a region to experience a change of it’s biome? If you think that this is absolutely ridiculous, I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong. It is completely possible for a region to have a change in it’s biomes overtime. But first, you may be wondering what a biome is, so here is a little refresher. A biome is a large area on the earth’s surface, which is defined by it’s abiotic factors such as climate, precipitation, geology, soil, and vegetation. In each of the biomes, the animals and plants have to learn to adapt to the environment. A common misconception is that a biome is an ecosystem, but that is actually not true. Although it may seem that a biome is a large ecosystem, in a biome the plants and animals have adaptive qualities and because of this you will also find multiple ecosystems in a biome. More specifically, the grassland biome is predominant with different species of grass, with a few trees and bushes scattered across. There are two types of grasslands, the Savanna Grassland and the the Temperate Grassland. The grassland biome can be considered the medium or the in-between of a desert biome and rainforest biome. Because of it’s temperatures, it can be considered to be either, and because of it’s lond dry season, it can be classified as a desert.

Now back to what I was saying, an example of changing biomes is currently happening in South Africa. Because of the increasing temperature, which has to do with climate change, and the change in precipitation, South Africa is facing the challenge of trying to preserve the grassland biome. The grassland biome is getting reduced in size, which is leading to an increase in the desert biome. You can see in figure one, that even though there are several different types of biomes in South Africa, there is a large difference in the size of the grassland biome from several years ago to now.

Figure 1.

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The reason that this is such a big deal is because if the grassland biome begins to decrease, it will affect all of the animals and plants that have adapted to the certain biome. Some of these animals may not be abel to make the transition, which will cause them to die. This in turn can have a drastic impact on the ecosystems in the biome and the food web. For instance, if a zebra is unable to find grass, which it’s main source of food, then the number of zebra’s will decrease. This will then effect the cheetahs, which feed on the zebras.

Another reason that this is harmful is because of the increase in aridity, which refers to the dryness of the atmosphere. Because of the aridity, the area of the atmosphere can shrink. If you look at figure 2, as of 2002, the area highlighted in blue was rather large, but as the years progress, the area has shrunk because there is double the amount of CO2 emissions.

Figure 2.

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All in all, the changing of biomes is extremely hazardous to the environment and the ecosystems in these environments. The excess levels of CO2 in the atmosphere area result of humans; therefore, with less CO2 emissions, the changing of biomes can hopefully come to an end.

Resources: 

http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/africa/page/3120.aspx

http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/grasslands.htm

Link Between Climate Change and the Ozone Layer?

The majority of the ozone layer is found in the stratosphere, which is located 16 to 50km above the earth. The ozone layer acts as a shield, absorbing ultraviolet rays, or UV rays, from the Sun. Furthermore, the ozone layer also protects the surface of the earth from being affected by the sun’s harmful UV rays. Over the years, scientists have discovered that while a majority of the gases are not harmful to the ozone layer, however, some such as hydrofluorocarbons, can cause destruction of the ozone when it reaches the stratosphere because of the odd chemical reaction that occurs. The link between the ozone layer and climate change is that the same gases that are destroying the ozone are also greenhouse gases, which means that they will help advancing climate change.

According to the article, “While protecting the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol also has cut in half the amount of greenhouse warming caused by ozone-destroying chemicals that would have occurred by 2010 had these substances continued to build unabated in Earth’s atmosphere, according to the study. The amount of warming that was avoided is equivalent to 7-12 years of rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.”

Figure 1.

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In my opinion, I think that this article is fascinating because I never knew that there was ever even a problem with the Earth’s ozone layer. It is interesting to see how the domino effect works, specifically in the case of the improvement of the destructive ozone gases also improving climate change. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that certain gases affect the environment in multiple harmful ways. Therefore, while reading this article, I felt like the data could be justified and it was very much so believable.

Sources:

http://research.noaa.gov/News/NewsArchive/LatestNews/TabId/684/ArtMID/1768/ArticleID/10741/Report-telltale-signs-that-ozone-layer-is-recovering-.aspx

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/news/2007/ozone/