Climate Change Mitigation
Climate change mitigation is the action to reduce the intensity of radiative forcing in order to reduce the effects of global warming (IPCC, 2006). Climate change mitigation can be done through several means such as developing alternative energy which includes renewable and nuclear energy, decreasing the carbon intensity of fossil fuel through carbon capture and sequestering, reforestation and also simply by conserving energy.
Based on the cost-benefit analysis of each methods, I believe that the effectiveness and practically of each methods can be ranked, in decreasing order, as such – (1) Reducing energy use by conservation (2) Developing renewable energy (3) Carbon capture and sequestering (4) Building more nuclear power plant and lastly (5) Reforestation. The most cost effective and practical way to mitigate climate change is through conservation of energy. Energy conservation encompasses using less energy, for example through behavioural change and using energy efficient innovations and designs.
Energy conservation focuses on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels thus lowering the amount of carbon emissions generated by human activities. Unlike the other mitigation methods, energy conservation usually does not require huge investment cost and in the long run can also bring about cost savings to both the individuals and organisations. For instance, by switching from using CFLs to LED lights, one can experience a 100% annual cost savings as the annual operating cost of CFLs is twice that of the annual operating cost of LED lights (Design Recycle Inc, 2011).
Energy conservation is also the most practical way for us to fight against climate change because it enables us to reduce our resource inputs to the economy, thus, it ensures that the non-renewable resources available will be able to support human activities for a longer period of time. Despite being the most cost-effective and practical way for climate change mitigation, it is definitely not an easy task to effect energy conservation programs. Strict government regulations will have to be enforced to ensure that every organisation comply with ‘green standards’.
Educational programs and price signals (high electricity cost) will have to be in place to bring about a behavioural change amongst every individual for successful energy conservation. Developing renewable energy ranks next after energy conservation in terms of its effectiveness and practicality. In 2006, about 19% of the global electricity is generated from renewable sources such as hydropower, wind and solar-generated energy (REN21, 2006). This indicates the effectiveness in developing renewable energy as it is able to contribute a reasonable amount of electricity to supplement human activities.
Furthermore, the development of renewable energy as an alternative form of energy can help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, hence, reducing carbon emissions in the long run. However, developing renewable energy pales in terms practically as it often requires huge investment cost yet the amount of energy that can be generated is often variable and less efficient as compared to combusting fossil fuels. For instance, installation of a highly efficient solar cell can cost more than $1000, and some households may need more than one solar cell.
This makes the initial installation of solar panels very costly and solar panels are only able to generate electricity during daylight hours. This means for around half of each day, solar panels are not producing energy for your home (Clean Energy Ideas, 2007). Hence, it may not be very practical to focus on developing renewable energy so as to mitigate climate change. However, it is definitely important to continue developing and finding new ways to improve on the current renewable energy technology so that renewable energy can be more affordable and reliable in the near future.
Although carbon capture and sequestering (CCS) do not help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, it is however still effective in reducing climate change. It is estimated that CCS could contribute between 10% and 55% of the cumulative worldwide carbon-mitigation effort over the next 90 years (Robinson, 2010). Though it requires up to 40% more energy to run a CCS coal power plant than a regular coal plant, CCS could potentially capture about 90% of all the carbon emitted by the plant.
As of late 2011, the total Carbon Dioxide storage capacity of all 14 projects in operation or under construction is broadly equivalent to preventing the emissions from more than six million cars from entering the atmosphere each year (Global CCS Institute, 2011). This indicates the effectiveness of CCS in reducing the impact of human activities on the environment as large amounts of our outputs can be captured and stored safely to prevent emission back to the atmosphere.
However, unlike the first two options of energy conservation and developing renewable energy, CCS may not be effective in the long run as it does not reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuel. Due to the huge investment costs involved in building CCS operations, less developed countries may not be able to afford such technologies. Therefore, it will be a more practical option for developed countries to adopt so as to reduce their carbon emissions contributed by industrial activities.
Despite the effectiveness of nuclear power plants in generating energy for human activities, it is not a very practical option to build more nuclear power plants due to safety concerns. The fact that nuclear power plants currently supply around 15% of the world’s electricity illustrates the effectiveness of the project. In countries like France where 75% of their electricity is derived from nuclear power plants (World Nuclear Association, 2013), constant development and improvement of nuclear power plants is inevitable.
However, developing more nuclear power plants may not a practical way to help mitigate climate change despite its ability to help reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuels. First, developing nuclear power plants requires high investment which includes the construction cost, operation cost, and also the cost of plant decommissioning and nuclear waste storage cost. Second, nuclear power plants are susceptible to natural disasters, military attacks and operational error.
For example, the tsunami in Fukushima Japan has led to the meltdown of the reactors which caused chemical explosions to occur, releasing radioactive materials into the environment (CBS News, 2011). Nuclear power plants have also become a potential target for military attacks as illustrated by the frequent bombings of nuclear power plants in the Middle East region (Sovacool, 2011). Such nuclear accidents can have a long term effect on the organisms living in vicinity of the nuclear power plants. As such, taking into account the probability of occurrence of such accidents, it is not practical for countries to develop more nuclear power plants.
Reforestation ranks last in terms of effectiveness and practically. Although reforestation facilitates biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and rebuilds habitat for organisms at the same time, it is however, impractical for reforestation to be carried out in large scale. First, as many countries move towards urbanization, it is unlikely that sufficient space will be available for reforestation to be conducted at a scale that can bring about a tangible reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Second, reforestation requires long term investment as it takes time for the plants and trees to grow.
At the rate at which human activities generates carbon emissions, reforestation will be ineffective in capturing carbon dioxide at a comparable rate that can decrease the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Instead of reforestation, avoiding deforestation will be a more feasible way and effective way to mitigate climate change. In conclusion, to effectively mitigate climate change, proposals need to look at either reducing our carbon emissions by decreasing our dependence on burning fossil fuel or clearing up the carbon emissions which we have emitted to the atmosphere.
In the long run, proposals that can reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuel will be a more effective method as it reduces the amount of carbon emissions to the atmosphere, hence, energy conservation and developing renewable energy is ranked as the top two means to mitigate climate changes. Although carbon capture does not reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, it nevertheless is an effective way in the short run, for us to store carbon emissions before we can develop cheaper ways to harness renewable energy and before we can successful implement energy conservation programs.
Due to the safety concerns related to developing nuclear power plants, such developments need to be exercise with caution. Countries should also look at imposing laws to avoid deforestation rather than carrying out reforestation projects that may not be as effective and practical in mitigating climate changes. Works Cited CBS News. (2011, May 14). Worker dies at damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from CBS News: http://www. cbsnews. com/stories/2011/05/14/501364/main20062987. shtml Clean Energy Ideas. (2007). Pros and Cons of Solar Energy. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from Clean Energy Ideas: http://www. lean-energy-ideas. com/articles/pros_and_cons_of_solar_energy. html Design Recycle Inc. (2011). Comparison Chart. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from Design Recycle Inc: http://www. designrecycleinc. com/led%20comp%20chart. html Global CCS Institute. (2011). The Global Status of CCS: 2011. Canberra, Australia: Global CCS Institute. IPCC. (2006). Glossary. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: http://www. ipcc. ch/pdf/glossary/ar4-wg3. pdf REN21. (2006). Changing Climates, The role of renewable energy in carbon-constrained world. REN21. Robinson, S. (2010, January 22). Cutting Carbon: Should We Capture and Store