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Cries Of Nature
Part 2 — Searching For Solutions
The fact that our planet is heating up has been well established by science. We are able to watch the "cries of nature" on our televisions and in our own backyards. The hardest question that is pressing the abilities of our leading scientists, geologists and climatologists is: What is the cause of global warming?
Some people believe human generated carbon dioxide is to blame. Others believe a natural process that we have no impact on is responsible. These two sides recently commenced criticizing each other by using errors in past theories and predictions as examples of incompetence. Old theories were based on the best available evidence at the time. These bitter attacks are unfounded and sound suspiciously political. The political offensive means the truth has been distorted to support agendas not necessarily in the best interests of the planet.
Astrophysicist Peter Thejll, involved in recent Danish research said, "It became political. We're now seeing that the Sun plays a role, and something in addition to the Sun. Maybe that will help people see there is room for both."
The latest analysis of the best available data indicates that the truth may be hiding somewhere in-between these beliefs.
Over the years, many news reports and scientific journals have proposed varying explanations for the cause of global warming. Details of the latest research were always reported, followed by a belief of the cause that generally fitted into two basic groups:
We are now seeing an unprecedented shift of understanding that is elevating our knowledge of this unique problem.
Three scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of North Carolina, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory concluded, "Solar forcing alone is insufficient to explain the behavior of the observed temperature data." They found that combining solar input with changes in greenhouse levels produced a more credible result.
Studies of the interplanetary magnetic field showed that it had increased in strength by 40% since 1964. Scientists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom researched this new information. They believed it was the result of our increasingly energetic Sun. However, they could not quantify the consequences this would have on Earth.
New Scientist magazine has published the findings of two Danish meteorologists that now believe the Suns role in global warming is probably relatively small. They discovered that the solar cycle only accounted for approximately half the Earths temperature rise since 1900. The effects of the Sun alone do not explain the rise of 0.4 degrees Celsius since 1980.
Representatives of 160 nations from around the world gathered in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 for an historic discussion on global warming. The meeting produced goals for nations to achieve the first small step in reducing their carbon dioxide output. New facts from NASA further emphasized that Kyoto was just a first step in a series of actions that we must take to ensure our survival.
NASA's Dr James Hansen recently said, "The good news is that the growth rate of non-CO2 greenhouse gases has declined in the past decade, and if sources of methane and tropospheric ozone were reduced in the future, further changes in climate due to these gases in the next 50 years could be near zero."
"Our estimates of global climate forcings, or factors that promote warming, indicate that it is the processes producing non-CO2 greenhouse gases that have been more significant in climate change"
We have now learnt that recent climate change activity has been mainly triggered by air pollution containing tropospheric ozone, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and black carbon - soot - particles. These do not contain carbon dioxide.
The next stride for Kyoto 2 should be the reduction of black carbon. Black carbon is generated by burning coal and diesel fuel. It is not an essential element of energy production and can be reduced or eliminated relatively easily with the help of improved technology.
Black carbon causes a semi-direct reduction in cloud cover, which reduces the effectiveness of shielding heat from the Sun. Clouds can reflect 40% to 90% of solar radiation; significantly reducing heat that gets to ground levels.
Alternative Energy Solutions
The majority of human causes would be eliminated if our governments seriously focused on shifting to clean energy instead of destroying landscapes for the dead black remains of decayed plants and animals.
A continuing consumption of finite fossil fuels will:
A transition to clean renewable energy sources would:
If large global participants like the World Bank took the lead in encouraging investments in India and China for new energy related technologies and air quality control methodologies, many hazardous gases could be reduced. These two highly polluted countries contribute significantly to the global levels of the gases identified by NASA as being primarily detrimental.
The renewable energy industry is currently fragmented throughout the world. Serious focus is required to bring about a successful global implementation utilizing new energy sources. The initial costs involved with extracting energy from renewable resources are rather substantial, but they pay themselves off over relatively short periods. Unfortunately, the concept of spending more now to save later, is a foreign concept to many people and our current economic models. The Department of Energy proved this concept back in the late 1970s. They invested $3 million in energy-efficient windows that has saved US taxpayers a cumulative total of over $1 billion. This figure is estimated to be $17 billion by 2015.
The Earths winds are created by irregular surface temperatures and can be harnessed by windmills that drive turbines. The European Wind Energy Association claims that wind energy can produce 10% of the world's energy by 2020. Denmark has already achieved the 10% mark for their country. The Schleswig-Holstein region in Germany has reached 15%, and Spain's Navarra region acquires 23% of its energy from the wind. Despite substantial increases in 1999, America lags behind with less than 1%.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has tried to help this embarrassing figure by introducing legislation in July 1999 for a five-year extension of a tax credit for companies that generate wind energy. Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt, introduced the Clean Energy Act of 1999 in July, which included an increase in investments of renewable energy.
In California, there are more than 50 businesses employing 5,500 people focusing on implementing wind energy technology and related maintenance. German wind farms are reaping $US 700 million dollar per year and providing 1,400 directly related jobs. In northern Germany, at least 10,000 jobs can be linked to wind power.
One of the fastest growing solar energy technologies is photovoltaics. Photovoltaic devices use semiconductor material to convert sunlight to electric current without any moving parts. The other solar technology is concentrating solar collectors. These use arrays of mirrors and lenses to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. The receiver transfers the heat to a steam generator or engine that converts it to electricity.
The energy consumption level of the Earths entire population over 27 years can technically be satisfied in a single day from the solar energy soaking the Earth. Since the early 1990s, photovoltaic sales have more than tripled. Today, photovoltaic cells are being incorporated into strong weather-resistant roof tiles. For $15,000, your roof can be wired to reverse the counter on your meter and dollars from your bill. The installation pays for itself in 10 to 15 years and is also government subsidized if you live in forward moving states like California. President Clintons Solar Roofs Initiative, one million homes may be outfitted with the tiles by 2010.
Hydroelectricity is produced from the potential energy of water at a high geographical location. After being released, the fast moving water turns turbines that drive generators that make electricity.
Hydroelectricity provides approximately one-fifth of the worlds electricity. America leads with 14% of this production, followed by Canada with 10% and Russia with 9%. America produces the equivalent of 500 million barrels of oil per year.
Geothermal energy is obtained by extracting super-heated water from underground reservoirs to use the steam to drive turbines. This virtually limitless supply of energy has been utilized in America since the early 1920s. The Harry Blundell Geothermal Plant in Roosevelt Hot Springs, Utah has been generating power with this method since 1982. However, this technology is not widely used enough and remains a largely undeveloped energy source.
In August 2000, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson confirmed 21 partnerships between the Department of Energy and private industry to encourage the development and use of geothermal energy in Western America. These partnerships are funded by government grants and matching funds from private industry.