Electricity & Global Warming
Lately the problem of Global Warming has been a hotly debated topic both in scientific circles and in political circles. What used to be thought of as nothing but scientific fantasy is quickly becoming a severe Earth altering reality that many people are finally waking up to. But what exactly is it and how does our electricity usage factor into it?
Many people operate under the misconception that global warming is an immediate 10 to 20 degree increase in temperatures around the world and will happen instantly. They also think that all the weather in the world will be this warm all of the time. These are common misinterpretations of the actual problem born out of ignorance and lack of personal research. Global Warming at its core is not a mass heat up of the temperatures around the world but rather an increase of a few degrees in very fragile areas.
Said fragile areas are mainly the ice sheets around our world. When the temperature gets a few degrees warmer than usual in these areas the ice starts to melt and that water flows into the seas. When this happens sea levels begin to rise which is the main concern over the problem. But the bigger issue is that the ice sheets around the world especially at the poles reflect sunlight and certain low level solar radiation back out into space.
Less ice means less reflection capacity which results in the oceans absorbing more heat through sunlight. This in turn exacerbates and accelerates the melting which results in sea levels rising faster. But how do our power plants and electrical usage factor into this? The power plants we use to generate electricity range in levels of pollution from heavy to light and most of this is in the form of air pollution.
Coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas power plants all produce air pollution when they burn their fuel sources for energy. Nuclear power plants produce nuclear waste but they only release steam into the atmosphere which is why they are considered clean. The other power plants however release a variety of toxins, materials, and fumes into the atmosphere. These have a very negative effect both on the ozone layer and on the air quality.
Most of the harmful elements in these gases will dissipate out of the atmosphere and into space on their own but it takes time for the Earth to do this. We've been producing greenhouse gases and other harmful elements from our power plants at a rate that is too fast for the natural systems to take care of. When this buildup occurs in the atmosphere it interferes with the Earth's ability to dissipate heat back into space.
Over time we just keep building up additional heat and eventually we reached temperatures that were just barely above freezing in the glacial areas. Now there are natural melting and refreezing seasons for these glaciers but when the temperature is above freezing when it shouldn't be things begin to go wrong.
This is how Global Warming started and the effect is cumulative. Unfortunately now that the train has gotten out of the station there's no easy way to stop it. Even if we switched all of our power systems over to solar, geothermal, and wind it would still take decades for the gasses to be processed out of the atmosphere. However we should all do our part and even the smallest step in the right direction can unleash a landslide of innovation.
Back to home page.