The world has evolved unprecedentedly with each successive decade witnessing massive transformations including rapid industrial growth. Agricultural activities during the Agrarian Revolution had little impact on the climate as compares to the innovations of the modern world. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, human beings and their activities have resulted in massive gas emissions, including poisonous emissions.
Environmental reports and scientific studies on atmospheric gases have increasingly indicated that the levels of the harmful gas emissions are on a constant rise. The European Fourth Assessment Report concluded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) extrapolates a 70% rise in global greenhouse and power plant emissions due to human activities from 1970 to 2004 (Pachauri, & Reisinger, 2007).
Since the world needs these developments to enhance economic growth, the serious implications of greenhouse gas emissions have wrongly remained underplayed or frequently ignored (Bartnik, 2013). Prevailing scientific evidence suggests that these atmospheric changes are the causal factors in many disastrous occurrences in modern days.
Rising sea levels, food shortages, presence of harsh weather changes, rigorous water shortage,s, loss of important tropical forests, and changing patterns of diseases are just, but a few consequences of climatic change occasioned by harmful gas emissions (Pachauri & Reisinger, 2007). Also, most experts in the modern scientific studies project that the next few decades may undergo potentially high levels of dangerous atmospheric changes.
The advent of erratic climatic conditions occasioned by careless human activities in the recent past continues to elicit ambivalent reactions and controversies, with no one willing to take responsibility for the consequences. While the modern environmentalists rightly identify global warming as one of the gravest threats to the environment, its perpetrators have refused to be accountable for their deeds.
Although apportioning blame may seem wrong, scientific evidence strongly suggests that carbon emissions, especially from the fumes produced by power plants or energy companies, are largely responsible for these climatic changes (Pachauri & Reisinger, 2007). Global temperatures are currently beyond initial expectations and are escalating even further to surpass earlier scientific predictions (Bartnik, 2013).
Past efforts to address gas emissions have prompted mixed reactions with some energy companies unwilling to cooperate and declining to desist from their harmful business practices. Against this background, this study explores the global warming scourge in terms of the role played by power plants in aggravating it, its adverse effects, and the possible solutions.
Expected research impacts
This study is expected to give a clear-cut picture of the current levels of incidence of global warming. It shall highlight the extent to which global warming is caused by power plants and delineate the consequences it has had on the world as well as the potential dangers it poses to the world.
The study is anticipated to give an insight into the reasons behind the unwillingness by the perpetrators of global warming to adopt measures that have been outlined by experts as the possible solutions such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technologies to mitigate global warming and by extension, its adverse effects.
Methodology and Resources
This study is entirely based on secondary data due to the enormous nature of environmental issues. Environmental reports released by environmental organizations, websites and databases maintained by such organizations form the main sources of data for the study.
Scientific studies carried out by environmental experts shall also provide vital input for the success of this study. Further, any other material that is relevant to the topic of study shall be incorporated to help achieve the overall goal of the study.
The use of secondary data and resources for this study is considered appropriate due to the view that it allows the researcher to fuse the findings of several studies, which in most cases are resource intensive, to come up with a clear concept of the problem at hand (Boslaugh, 2007). It also allows the study to access a wide scope of relevant data because it is already available.
To cap it all, when using secondary data, an individual researcher needs not to worry about the expertise that may be required to collect primary data (Boslaugh, 2007). However, with all these benefits also come some limitations that are typical of secondary data based studies.
The researcher may face challenges in fashioning the available data to suit the purpose of his/her study because the data was collected to answer a different research question (Boslaugh, 2007).
Additionally, the data may not be relevant to the geographic region that the current study is examining. Further, a primary researcher may withhold some vital details about published data, thus making it inaccessible to the secondary researcher.
Results and Discussion
Bartnik (2013) posts, “Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history” (p. 71). It is caused by the ‘greenhouse effect,’ which is instigated by the presence of certain gases (commonly called greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere (Stewart, 2011). The ‘greenhouse effect’ is used to denote the retention of heat by the earth’s lower atmosphere courtesy of the greenhouse gases.
Atmospheric heating occurs when greenhouse gases absorb (trap) the sun’s radiations, retain, and release them to the earth’s surface as well as the ocean surfaces (Stewart, 2011). Therefore, the exponential rise in quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has led to relatively higher atmospheric temperatures the world over. These heightened atmospheric temperatures constitute what is called global warming.
The greenhouse gases responsible for the greenhouse effect include carbon dioxide (CO2) (major contributor), methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide, and ozone (Stewart, 2011). The prevalence of these gases in the atmosphere varies, but CO2, which is of interest to this study, currently stands 400 ppm up from about 170 ppm in the 1800s (Stewart, 2011).
Methane has also increased from 0.75 ppm to 1.75 over the same period, while nitrous oxide has increased from 275 ppb to 310 ppb (Stewart, 2011). Carbon dioxide is of particular interest to this study because it accounts for up to 60% of the greenhouse effect and is the major emission from power plants (Pachauri & Reisinger, 2007).
The causes of global warming boil down to the sources of greenhouse emissions. In this respect, power plants emerged as major contributors to the escalation of atmospheric carbon dioxide because, in their operation, they release substantial amounts of the gas into the atmosphere.
In 2012, in the US, which is one of the highest greenhouse emitters cross the world, power plants accounted for about 40% of the total CO2 emissions and 67% of the total emissions released into the atmosphere (Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). With the US as an example, it becomes apparent that traditional power plants are largely responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and consequently, global warming.
However, it was established that by using Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technologies, the emission CO2 could be dramatically reduced.
In effect, global warming can be mitigated because CHP technology, which is also known as cogeneration, allows for the generation of electric power and using the excess heat from the process to produce additional energy or serve other purposes like heating and so on rather than letting it dissipate into the atmosphere (Doukelis & Kakaras, 2011).
In this respect, CHP technology leads to energy efficiency that can tremendously reduce CO2 and help in countering the adverse effects of global warming instigated by power plants.
The US has endeavored to adopt this technology. In 1936, New Jersey’s first CHP power plant was built in Parlin (Doukelis & Kakaras, 2011). Over the years, similar plants have proliferated across the US with notable examples including the “Linden Cogeneration Plant, the BMW Manufacturing Plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Duke Energy’s several projects, which espouse the idea of clean energy technology” (Doukelis & Kakaras, 2011).
These plants have proved to be very good contributors in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The BMW Plant, for instance, is designed to produce only 11 MW of electricity, but by doing so, it saves between $5 and $7 million annually in terms of energy costs and reduces annual carbon emissions by up to 92,000 tons (Doukelis & Kakaras, 2011).
Similar projects such as Harrah’s Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas saves up to $750,000 annually in terms of energy costs; similarly, Adkins Energy saves up to $900,000 courtesy of a 5 MW CHP system it installed in 2002 (Doukelis & Kakaras, 2011). Duke Energy, through the adoption of clean energy technology, reduced its CO2 by 21% since 2005 (Doukelis & Kakaras, 2011).
Therefore, it is imperative to adopt these environmentally friendly technologies because the world has already witnessed disastrous calamities occasioned by erratic weather patterns that are attributable to global warming.
Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the state of New Orleans in 2005 causing close to 2,000 deaths and an extrapolated $100 billion in damages (Brinkley, 2007) is just a single example of the ravages of global warming. Europe has recorded growing rates of excess heat-related mortality in recent years as well as anomalous patterns in infectious disease vectors (Pachauri & Reisinger, 2007).
Other adverse effects have been attributed to climatic changes, which are linked to global warmings, such as widespread extinctions of species across the world, among others (Pachauri & Reisinger, 2007). Global warming is detrimental to the well being of the world and needs to be mitigated at all costs.
The global warming scourge is one that continues to defy the concerted efforts of environmental activists to rally concerned stakeholders in mitigating it, and thus it re, mains a major global concern. This unwillingness to join the fight against global warming wholeheartedly seems to stem from the idea that it emerges from human activities, which the human race cannot afford.
Power plants, which are the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, provide the vital energy needed by industries. The human race cannot do without industries today; rather, it can adopt technologies such as CHP, which have the potential of reducing the quantities of greenhouse gas emissions.
It should be noted that in the wake of the Industrial Revolution (the 1800s) the levels of CO2 were at their least levels (170 ppm), which were adequate to insulate the atmosphere against extreme temperatures (Stewart, 2011). At the time, erratic climatic patterns were not a common phenomenon as they are today.
Therefore, it is arguable that the proliferation of industries the world over is largely responsible for global warming and its adverse effects.
Although it is true that the world cannot do without its industries, the grave nature of the consequences of global warming makes neglecting it a worse option. If energy efficient technology had been adopted, for instance in th,e 1950s, it would have taken longer for the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to reach the current levels. According to Bartnik (2013), in May 2013, levels of CO2 above 400 ppm were recorded in Hawaii.
What makes this the serious problem is that CO2 takes up to 100 years or more in the atmosphere and during this time, it continues to cause the greenhouse effect, which increases as more emissions reach the atmosphere. A proactive, rather than reactive approach is the best way to deal with this massive problem.
It was supposed to have been addressed earlier because experts warned before 2007 that if the problems stayed unaddressed until 2012, it would be too late (Pachauri & Reisinger, 2007). Now since these forecasted grave outcomes of the 2007 warnings have materialized, the world must be prepared to face the consequences of its past environmental atrocities even as it attempts to curb further damage.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Philosophy, which many have learned to use as the basis to guide their actions and thinking, was supposed to have guided the actions of countries across the world as well. The philosophical adage holds that every action has a consequence. If this line of argument is to be followed, the fate that awaits the world due to the activities of man in the last fifty years is dire.
The issue is aggravated by the view that for global warming, once the damage is done, the consequences can last up to 100 years or more. Therefore, if corrective measures are taken today, it will take very long to start realizing the positive results.
However, in this state, a proactive approach to addressing global warming is still the best way to go. There are new technologies, which can drive the fight to bring down global temperatures to unprecedented levels if adopted. Moreover, this fight is important because global warming is dangerous, yet the negligence witnessed so far only serves to exacerbate it.
Global warming is rightly dangerous as noted by many experts, and thus, it is necessary to mitigate it and more importantly so today than ever before. In this respect, the following recommendations are derived from the study.
A global organization with severe punitive abilities should be established to give countries the motivation they need to observe acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions by adopting technologies such as CHP.
Alongside the punitive measures, endearing incentives need to put in place for those counties that stay within acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
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