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Renewable Energy and Climate Change: An Introduction

There is a good market for renewable energy... therefore, the transition from fossil fuels to renewables should be encouraged without fear.

The effects of climate change are beginning to show more aggressively than before with the recent harsh weather conditions. Most recently, wildfires in Australia destroyed a landmass equivalent to Belgium and Denmark combined and killed about half a billion wildlife. Venice experienced the most severe flooding in 50 years. More than ever before, there is an urgent need to take action in mitigating the negative effects of climate change. Governments around the world are beginning to awaken to the climate urgency with better policies being formulated, and there is a wave of climate activists holding world leaders, businesses and individuals into account.

I've been asked by anxious friends and colleagues on what 'greener' measures can be taken to alleviate the effects of climate change, and I usually respond that there are several sides to the coin. For instance, factors like food wastage and the growing global population food demand lead to an increased need for land for agriculture, which implies more trees to be cut down to create land space, thereby increasing CO2 concentration. So, we can say that population control and minimizing food wastage are important to curbing climate change.

However, I believe that the demand for energy has been a major driver for climate change. We live in a technology-driven world. From the 5Volts smartphone to large automated cities, energy is in high demand in every industry and in our day-to-day activities. According to BP, the world's energy consumption rate grew at 2.9% in 2018 with more growth forecasted in the coming years.

Presently, energy is largely gotten from non-renewable energy sources like coal, crude oil, natural gas, etc. These sources are the largest contributor of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to their chemical compositions. Greenhouse gases react with the tri-oxygen molecule present in the protective ozone layer in the atmosphere. This reaction breaks down the molecule and reduces the thickness of the ozone layer. The imminent danger of this is that the intensity of solar insolation reaching the earth's surface is increased, warming up the earth as a result and causing changes to the climate conditions.

However, there are alternative sources of energy called the renewables which are 'cleaner' in that they produce a net-zero carbon content and are ever available, that is, sustainable. An example is solar energy, which uses light and heat from the sun to generate energy with PV modules and thermal fluids. Others include hydro, wave, wind, geothermal and biomass energy. There have been arguments that these alternative sources also have adverse effects on the environment like the effects of dams to marine life and the birds' deaths caused by wind turbines. Yet, these effects are minimal and can be managed with advances in research and technology which are currently ongoing.

In addition, some may argue that technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage make fossil fuels safer to use; however, fossil fuels remain unsustainable as their reserves are also currently being depleted.

There is a good potential market for renewable energy as it offers a very good alternative to fossil fuels in winning the fight against climate; therefore, the transition from fossil fuels to renewables should be encouraged without fear.

Cover Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

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