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Almost 100% of the observed temperature increase over the last 50 years has been due to the increase in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas concentrations like water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and ozone. Greenhouse gases are those gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (see below). The largest contributing source of greenhouse gas is the burning of fossil fuels leading to the emission of carbon dioxide.
Read on and see graphs about the greenhouse effect and global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.
As a result of the current discussion how further global warming could be prevented or at least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in everybody's - or at least in many politician's - mind. It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of nuclear power generation, its disadvantages are rarely mentioned.
Below is a short summary of arguments for and against nuclear power plants.
A carbon footprint is defined as:
The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
It took more than 20 years to broadly accept that mankind is causing global warming with the emission of greenhouse gases. The drastic increase in the emission of CO2 (carbon dioxide) within the last 30 years caused by burning fossil fuels has been identified as the major reason for the change of temperature in the atmosphere.
More than 80% of the world-wide energy demand is currently supplied by the fossil fuels coal, oil or gas. It will be impossible to find alternative sources, which could replace fossil fuels in the short or medium term. The energy demand is simply too high.
Global warming is a typical global phenomena, where the causer of the emission does not automatically suffer from it himself. Cause and effect are separated both in time as well as with regard to geography.
In the past, there was a more or less direct relation between the energy consumption (mainly fossil fuels) and the welfare of a country.
This makes it very difficult to reach consensus between the countries about the required steps to solve the problem. The Kyoto protocol shows that the following of the agreement will be doubtful at best if no automatic sanctions take into effect for countries violating it.
Given the severe consequences of global warming, the above sounds quite hopeless for our future. Read on to see how we all are involved in this and how we can benefit from taking our personal responsibility.
According to the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) and to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world-wide energy consumption will on average continue to increase by 2% per year.
A yearly increase by 2% leads to a doubling of the energy consumption every 35 years. This means the world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be twice as high in the year 2040 compared to today (2007).
By far the highest increase in world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be from all three fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas (see graph)! The renewable energies are predicted to grow as well, but much less than fossil energies. Nuclear energy is predicted to grow relatively moderate.
It is only possible to mitigate global warming if the world-wide consumption of fossil fuels can be drastically reduced in the next 10 to 15 years. There is simply no room for a scenario as it is predicted by the International Energy Agency IEA.
It is also obvious that no combination of alternative technologies can replace the current usage of fossil fuels. There is simply not enough non-fossil fuel available for this. In order to mitigate global warming, we have to use the available energy much more efficiently. But this won't be enough either: We will have to change our behaviour to reduce our personal energy consumption. We must change our current live style and seriously strive for a sustainable living .
Read on for details and background...
There are two major effects of global warming:
More details about these effects of global warming :
There is no doubt any more: Global warming (climate change) has been caused by human beings through the high emission of so called greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide CO2). Carbon dioxide is inevitably emitted when fossil fuels (coal, natural gas or oil) are burned.
This finding has been accepted by hundreds of climate experts and governments world-wide. No one can ignore climate change any more and call global warming "a bad illusion of some greens".
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a strong increase of the carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. Additionally, IEA investigated to which extent the above mentioned emissions of CO2 could be prevented if politics applied rigorous measures.
From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%). Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.
This result is surprising, in particular if you think about how nuclear power is praised as solution to global warming by politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It seems like they would (again) head into the wrong direction.
Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some politicians propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!
The graph shows the total CO2 emission in million tons by country for the year 2002. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI). The CO2 emissions for the year 2006 are about 12 to 15% higher than the figures shown here.
The second chart shows the CO2 emissions by capita and country for the year 2002. Data source was again the World Resources Institute (WRI). Some remarks to these values:
The need for electricity has constantly risen world-wide over the last years. This is not only true for the so-called developing countries but also and in particular for all well-developed countries. In order to fulfil the demand, obviously additional power plants have to be built.
Which technology is best for generating electricity? This question certainly has to be answered on a case by case base. But it is very concerning that nuclear power plants more and more seem to be chosen as "the" technology of the future.
We show the urgent need to act in order to be able to mitigate global warming. For this purpose, we simulate different scenarios for the future emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and calculate their effect on the rise of the average temperature on Earth.
As a result, it still seems to be possible to avoid the most devastating effects on our environment. However we must start acting immediately. The longer we are talking instead of acting, the more drastic measures are needed.
Global warming is not about the others, global warming is about us and our personal behaviour . Everyone must assume responsibility and bring down his or her personal contribution .
In search for global warming solutions, people are suddenly asking for alternative energies. However, more than 80% of our energy is currently taken from the fossil sources oil, gas or coal. It is absolutely impossible to supply this much of energy from alternative sources within the next 10 to 20 years.
Therefore, we should first ask how much energy is really required to have a good quality of life, instead of taking our current energy consumption for granted or even indispensable. In a second step, we can then look for potential energy sources to fulfil this need.
A new report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) including an update on predicted effects of global warming by geographical regions has been released in April 2007. This report does confirm the cause and effects of global warming, which have already been know for years.
In this article, the effects of global warming by geographical area are summarized. Geographical regions looked at individually are Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, North America, Polar regions, small islands.
The following graph shows the cumulative CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by country for the years 1900 until 2002. This is the sum of all CO2 emissions in the years 1900 until 2002 for each developed country. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI).
On the page link here, you can find the CO2 emissions by country and/or per capita by country .
It does make sense to look at the sum of all CO2 emissions because the lifetime of the greenhouse gases like CO2 in the atmosphere is between 50 and 200 years. The current global warming is an effect of all greenhouse gases put in the atmosphere during the last 100 years, global warming is not just caused by the greenhouse gases emitted this year or last year! This is also one of the reasons why immediate action is required to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, because the effects of the greenhouse gases will last for about 100 years.