Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, global warming occurs. The consumption of fossil fuels by the energy infrastructure is one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gases which are responsible for recent global warming and climate change concern.
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The Government’s goal is to play an active part in global efforts to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to avoid reaching dangerous levels and to adapt to the climate change that is now inevitable. However, with the change in global climate facilitated by the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there is an urgent need to consider the renewable energy sources for sustainable development.
The major advantage of the renewable energy sources is that they can never be depleted since they do not exist in fixed amounts like the non-renewable sources. They are clean and have very little contribution to global warming. Most of these sources are harvested in their natural form and thus requires very little operation costs.
This paper analyses the components of a total footprint for a business, gives reasons why there is need to reduce the carbon footprint and gives an appraisals of some of the energy sources that can be used to reduce the level of carbon emissions.
Greenhouse gases are released to the atmosphere through natural process although most of them result from increased human activities; some of these activities are agriculture, deforestation, and industrialization. As forests are converted into farmland and cities, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.
This is because all living things contain a given amount of carbon dioxide and when they die, carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere. If forests and grasslands are cleared large amounts of carbon dioxide stored in them is released into the atmosphere increasing the volume of the greenhouse gases (Cramton & Kerr, 2002).
Globalization and technological advancement has contributed immensely towards the increase in the number of industries in the world. In the process of production, fuel is required to run some machines; however, this fuel is a major source of pollution to the environment. Fossil fuels, for example, emit gases (when burnt) that are harmful to human beings and the environment at large- this is the commonly used non-renewable energy resource.
When Fossil fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The consumption of fossil fuels by the energy infrastructure is one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gases which are responsible for recent global warming and climate change concern. In 2005, the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide reported an increase in greenhouse gases which has increased from its pre-industrial value.
Carbon dioxide is at present to blame for 60 percent of the greenhouse effect. Global energy consumption is expected to increase by 52 percent from 2006 to 2030 (Bishop, 2008).
Every activity has an impact on the environment. A business’s carbon footprint is a measurement of its impact on earth and its environments. Greenhouse gases are made up of water vapour, methane, and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide is the gas that people have the most control over. A carbon footprint measures a business emission of greenhouse gases in units of carbon dioxide.
There are two parts of carbon footprint; primary and secondary. Primary carbon footprint measures the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted as a result of use of electricity, driving, and heating. Secondary carbon footprint measures the carbon emitted by others who provide services for the business. The measurement of a carbon footprint helps in determining ways in which businesses can change their impact on the environment (Adeyeye et al, 2007).
Global warming is a worldwide problem that requires massive participation of businesses in reducing it. Improvement on the management of carbon emissions, creating intelligent utility and energy networks, optimizing transportation systems, and creating advanced water-management systems are some of the ways that a business can use to reduce its carbon footprint. Diagnostic tools such as carbon calculators are helping businesses to quickly assess their operations, to first define a carbon footprint and then identify opportunities for improvement.
The Need to Reduce the Carbon Footprint
As Greenhouse gases accumulate in the earth’s surface, they form a mirror that reflects heat radiation on the earth’s surface. In cases where the air is polluted by green house emissions then these gasses break the reflected sunlight radiations from reflecting back to the atmosphere, leaving them just at the earth’s surface. This increases the temperature on the earth’s surface.
This is not only harmful to human beings, but to all living organisms including plants and animals. When these gases are released in large amount they result in global warming. This is the increase in the temperatures of the earth’s air surface and the subsequent increase in the water levels.
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It results from numerous human activities that emit gasses that prevent the radiation of sunlight back to the atmosphere. Generally when sunlight reaches the earth’s surface, there is an amount of it that is reflected back to the atmosphere at a higher wave length; when this happens, the earth’s temperatures are regulated.
The sun’s rays are prevented from reaching the earth’s surface by the ozone layer found in the atmosphere. Through global warming, this layer is weakened thereby allowing the harmful rays from the sun to penetrate to the earth’s surface. When these harmful rays get to the earth’s surface, they absorb most of the moist that helps in the growth of vegetation.
As the growth of vegetation, for instance, forest is interfered with, the water cycle changes resulting into shorter periods of rainfall. Growth of plants and vegetation declines consequently resulting in lack of food for both animals and human beings (Union of Concerned Scientist, 2010). This increases the mortality rate and some plant species may even become extinct.
Global warming is also likely to encourage the development of many tropical diseases, although whether it turns out to be on a scale that would seriously affect the world’s population levels remains to be seen. Many tropical diseases are already moving into higher latitudes, however, and the more the ecosystem is disturbed by warming, then the more vulnerable it becomes to the spread of plant diseases too, bringing agricultural problems in their wake.
For a long time now, oceans have been known to store a lot of carbon dioxide. They act as a carbon sink and can hold back more than 50 times of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, thermal stratification of the oceans due to global warming has resulted in a reduction of the ocean’s ability to hold carbon dioxide.
Ocean’s can now hold very little levels of carbon dioxide leaving the rest in the atmosphere which consequently results in global warming. On the other hand, the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes oceans to acidify leading to the death of the plants found in the ocean thereby weakening the ocean’s ability to store carbon.
Ways of Reducing the Carbon Footprint
The global demand to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is receiving great concern presently. Global warming is the biggest challenge facing the world today, and radically reducing the carbon footprint is the most pressing requirement. Many people argue about the causes of global warming and how to address this problem.
Clearly, action to reduce the carbon footprint is not necessarily as straightforward as it may seem; unintended consequences could have almost as devastating an effect on the lifestyle of large sections of the global population as global warming is projected to do (Willis, 1995). For instance, the recent interest for the production of biogas is an outstanding case in point.
The massive increase in production of ethanol is pushing up food prices globally, as crops are converted into fuel for industries rather than being sold as foodstuffs. use of ethanol may seem as a good idea because it causes increased combustion thus cutting toxic emissions and can be used to reduce the carbon footprint, but may lead to an increase in food prices and the supply of food stuffs is cut back.
When deciding on the best strategy to use for reducing carbon emissions, there is need to speculate on what the unplanned consequences may turn out to be and devise ways of addressing them (Bishop, 2008).
Renewable Energy Sources
Emerging technologies are being developed to reduce or eliminate these greenhouse emissions are of the utmost importance and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. The clean energy blueprint investigated on ways of promoting diversity in production of energy and its conservation and looked into the cost effective methods.
It recommended the use of alternative methods of generating energy and emphasized on the use of renewable sources such as wind and geothermal (Cubby, 2009). The use of renewable is both cost effective and friendly to the environment.
Hydroelectric power is generated from the utilization of water and this has helped many industries. In America it has been used in industries since the early colonial period. This was due to the unavailability of other sources such as wood and coal and this forced American settlers to look for alternative sources.
They found that falling water could be utilized to power gristmill and sawmills. The discovery of an electric generator in the mid 20th century increased the need for hydropower and more plants were built (National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Committee, 1997).
Running water is used to create electricity in the hydroelectric systems. Fossil fuel is used to burn water and the steam from the boiling water turn turbine which in turn produce electricity. Hydroelectric power is one of the cleanest sources of energy although in most cases it alters or damages the surrounding for example it leads to change of the quality of water and affects the aquatic life.
Another type of renewal energy that can be used for sustainable environment is the solar power. This energy is gotten direct from the sun by use of solar panels. This type of energy has been used for many years although some scientists have recently started to research on how it can be put into more use. These scientists discovered that solar panels can be used to convert the rays from the sun into electricity.
This can be done in two ways one is called solar thermal applications where the sun is used to heat liquid or air. The second is called the photoelectric applications whereby photovoltaic cells are used to generate electricity directly from the solar energy (Cubby, 2009). Solar energy is one of the cleanest sources of energy and has no harmful by-products or threats.
Biomass is one of the well established sources of energy and among the oldest in the world. Stored plant’s energy is converted to produce biomass energy that can be used for lighting and heating. This energy is produced from the use of organic substances. These organic substances are converted into biomass energy either through burning, anaerobic digestion, or alcohol fermentation.
Sources of biomass energy can be classified into four that is from wood such as trees wastes such as livestock waste, crops such as sugar canes, and the aquatic plants such as water weed. Among the advantages of using biomass energy, some are that it is inexhaustible, has minimal environmental impact, and is available world wide. Its major drawbacks are that it’s expensive, and a lot of energy is lost during its production.
Wind energy has been used throughout history. It has been used to power boats, to drive windmills, and many other uses. Differences in temperature and atmospheric pressure cause movements in the air which is known as the wind. This movement is then transformed into energy by use of a generator. For this to be effective the wind flow or the movement should be reliable.
These generators have batteries where they store energy especially when the wind flow is strong to be used when wind flow is not reliable (Twidell & Weir, 2006).
Wind energy has a major problem in that the wind farms with the set ups for converting wind into energy consumes a lot of space and can badly affect the environment. The energy generated by these generators is relatively low compared to the cost incurred. Advantages of wind energy are: it’s clean to the environment; it is inexhaustible and can supplement other sources.
Geothermal power is generated when the radioactive elements heats the earth’s crust. This heat is then carried by water or magma to the earth’s surface and it becomes detectable in the form of hot springs as geysers. This heat can be used to power turbines leading to the generation of electricity (U.S. Department of Energy, 2010).
Geothermal power occurs naturally through vents and does not require any construction for collecting the energy although these vents are not available worldwide. This has led to the need of artificial vents which are not very effective because sometimes the source of heat is too deep. However, geothermal power is inexhaustible, clean to the environment, and can supplement other sources, such as the non renewable sources
Global climate change is up till now the most serious environmental problem and is also one of the most complicated challenges in the 21st century. The global demand to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is receiving great concern presently. In order for coal and other fossil fuelled power generation techniques to remain large components of energy generation, harmful emission reduction systems must continue to make technological advancements.
If desired changes are not sought after, energy sources such as renewable may be the only viable options available. Renewable energy technologies such as electricity from solar panels, electricity from wind turbines, and electricity from hydropower or energy from biomass are proving to be reliable solutions whose value propositions and payback time can be calculated with ease.
As fuel prices remain volatile and risky, the value propositions become more attractive, and the time to break even on an investment in renewable energy sources becomes shorter. Almost all renewable sources produce small quantities of electricity as compared to non-renewable resources such as, fossil fuels.
Hydroelectric energy is the most reliable source since it produces a bigger quantity of electricity than all the other resources, although it interferes with ecology and causes problems in the downstream. Wind energy is the principal job producer but can only be relied upon when there are strong winds.
Wind turbines occupy a large area which would otherwise be used for farming and they also produce a lot of noise. It would be recommendable for the business to use hydroelectric energy because its production does not consume a lot of space and it produces the biggest quantity of electricity as compared to other renewable sources.
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