Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Climate Change Big Picture Part II (of 4)

by Lawrence Petersen

Renewable energy is being promoted as a solution to global climate change. Great efforts have been made to encourage the production of solar panels and wind turbines, for instance. But there is a problem with basing too much hope on this method of reducing the carbon dioxide that is being loaded into the atmosphere. We are making headway in creating electricity in ways that don’t pollute as much. But we are not slowing the use of fossil fuels. The demand, and supply and use of these materials continues to rise. It seems that the more energy that is available, the more we want.

Energy is used to change things. To make mountains and forests into building materials and places to build things, to make minerals and gases into chemicals, machines and weapons. As the population grows, and we add a billion more people to the Earth every decade or so, more energy is needed to make things, places, food and clothing for all these people.

Changing things has at least two adverse effects. First it destroys the things and places that are used to build the new things and second, all energy use produces heat, whether it comes from a wind turbine, a hydroelectric plant or solar panels. We already have too much heat. Further, some of the biggest polluters in the world today, second only to the extraction of fossil fuels, are those involved in  the extraction and refinement of rare earths for electronics to supply the renewable energy industry such as solar panels and batteries.

Unknown Fields collecting radioactive tailings material from besides the worlds Largest Rare Earth minerals refinery in Inner Mongolia. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Meanwhile the fossil fuels continue to burn and the CO2 levels keep going up. It seems that it is going to take more than just changing some of our energy supply to stop climate change. It looks as if we may have to cut way back on all energy use, to stop tearing up the Earth and stop building things. As this will severely disrupt the world economy, we have some tough choices to make. But these choices should have been made decades ago and were not. Now we are running out of choices and we seem to favor our own comfort over the lives of future generations. (To Be Continued)

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