Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing humans. Individual’s lifestyles have developed to such an extent in developed countries that people continue to drain the earth of fossil fuels used to sustain humans. The result is that global warming is happening as a result of natural but predominantly human activities that release carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Measuring the best forms of energy to counteract this depends on a number of technological, economic and societal variables. It also requires the efforts of government to use command and control along with economic incentives to the highest potential for each country. The carbon emissions tax is one such effort at making polluters innovators responsible for decreasing emissions. It can also lead the market to renewable energy.
Climactic changes have always been present on earth however greenhouse gases have been growing excessively and many scientists believe that the earth is looking at a global catastrophe if activities related to global warming do not decrease. It is believed that human’s affect on climatic changes have been speed up that has resulted in higher emissions of carbon emissions. The natural causes of carbon emissions include volcanoes, ocean currents, orbital and solar changes. Carbon emissions are also produced by energy that uses coal and oil but also by the methane released from animals such as cows, landfills and waste dumps.
The view that the climate is changing is shared by over 90% of researchers active in the field.. Despite this number, climate sceptics argue that global warming is not scientifically conclusive. For example they believe that CO² is only a trace gas in the atmosphere and the amount produced from humans is negligible. This is because volcanoes and other natural sources such as water vapour also produce CO².. Most of these arguments can be challenged by scientific evidence. Some believe that industry and government have also colluded together to produce information that strongly denies climate change particularly in the media.
It has been found that the burning of fossil fuels accounts for around 30 billion tons of CO2 each year, which is 130 times the amount produced by volcanoes.. If humans continue burning fossil fuels and polluting the atmosphere with CO² it will result in a polluted atmosphere, a lack of resources for future generations, food shortages, more pollution and a more poverty. If one takes a utilitarian view or ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, one must come to the conclusion that a reduction in carbon emissions will not only reduce the harmful effects of climate change for all individuals throughout the world.
Command and control regulations try to prevent environmental problems by specifying how a company will manage a pollution generating process. It usually involves regulation, inspection, and enforcement and had relative success in America during the 1970s where a decrease in point sources became evident. Incentive based regulations makes polluting uneconomical for companies therefore forcing companies to innovate and find ways to reduce pollution. This can be achieved through taxes and higher permit fees for higher polluting activities. It is now the easiest to control and promotes innovation, technological and scientific solutions.
It is difficult to determine the exact amount of oil and how changes to technology will impact on its future abundance. Today’s active oil fields produce about 70 million barrels per day but by 2035 it is predicted that they will produce less than 20 million barrels per day of oil. Oil is one of the worst contributors to CO² emissions because its refinement into petroleum products is used for so many purposes such as fuelling vehicles, heating, air travel and household goods. For example transporting goods and people around the world produced 22% of fossil fuel related carbon dioxide emissions in 2010.
Of all the different types of fossil fuels, coal produces the most carbon dioxide and is responsible for 43% of the carbon dioxide in the world. There are concerns that coal has reached its peak by 2011 or will peak in the next few decades. (Agency, 2012) Natural gas is responsible for 20% of carbon dioxide emissions The total estimated remaining economically recoverable gas reserves at annual increase in usage of 2–3% may result in reserves lasting as few as 80 to 100 years.
Renewable energy such as solar, wind, wave and geothermal heat have a much lower impact on the environment and are inexhaustible. The carbon dioxide emissions are low compared with fossil fuel energy however the technology still derives from fossil fuels. To offset this however most solar modules can be recycled. Up to 97% of semi conductor materials or the glass as well as ferrous and non ferrous metals can be recycled..
Carbon dioxide emissions of nuclear energy are comparable to renewable energy sources and there is enough uranium for at least the next 85 years (Agency, 2007). However, construction costs, maintenance, and storing used uranium make the source of energy less appealing. Critics also argue that when all stages of the nuclear fuel chain are considered, from uranium mining to eventual decommissioning, nuclear power is neither low-carbon or low risk
Solar energy has the potential to solve many of the economic issues confronting energy but depends largely on technological innovation. The gathering and utilizing of solar energy is often expensive however the costs of photovoltaic solar technology have fallen up to 30 percent Economic theory predicts that as exhaustible energy resources are depleted, their prices will increase to a point that renewable energy sources like solar will become attractive. Solar power solves many issues of equity between countries as it is an import resource that does not cross borders. Wind power farm has the potential to challenge coal fired power. Despite the growing popularity and electrical output of wind power, it still relies on finding a suitable area, and many people complain of the aesthetics and noise.
Nuclear power plants have high capital costs for building the plant, but low CO² emissions similar to renewable energy. The comparison with other power generation methods is strongly dependent on assumptions about construction timescales, the future costs of fossil fuels as well as storage solutions for radiation. Cost estimates also need to take into account plant decommissioning and nuclear waste storage costs. On the other hand, measures to mitigate global warming, such as a carbon tax may favour the economics of nuclear power.
Coal is cheap, readily available, does not rely on the weather and is still the most economical form of energy to date. This has the potential to change as natural gas fired electric plants are adopted instead. Coal's share of the electricity market in the U.S will fall to 36 percent in 2015 from about 50 percent in 2007, government estimates show. New technology that allows coal to be converted to a liquid and gaseous form has the potential to reduce the cost of extraction and reduce carbon emissions. 45% of natural gas remains undiscovered and is expected to last longer than oil however this depends on demand and a possible decrease in flaring that has long been a practice connected with oil production. An estimated peak production of oil will occur in 2020. As developing countries living standards become higher, this drives up energy needs and therefore oil needs. (Energy Bulletin, 2006) Higher oil prices would lead to more interest in renewable technology
Economic instruments would allow for a more decentralised less intrusive way of regulating the environmental impacts. It decreases the bureaucracy of government while still providing tax revenue. It also and means that companies do not have to keep abreast of technological change. Command and control regulations do not reward companies that reach the levels required by regulation more efficiency. The most well known economic incentive is a carbon tax that would be placed on fossil fuels in proportion to the amount of carbon produced. Coal has a higher carbon and would be taxed more. The rising prices of these fossil fuels energies would induce people to use more renewable resources instead of fossil fuels; and to be more efficient in their use of energy generally.
The most economic and ethical forms of energy are dependent on a number variables depending on the state of the economy, the market, government intrusion, technology, population growth and the amount of fossil fuels left to produce energy. It also depends on the power of individuals to see beyond climate change sceptics powered by existing companies and media that have the interests of profits above the interests of future generations and a need for a sustainable future that values the natural environment.
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