Careless and lavish use of fossil fuels and other pollutants over the last century has substantially contributed to global warming. However, only recently the full extent of the impacts has been realised. Industrialisation and convenient use of fossil fuels has come at a high price.
According to reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is caused by increased greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted into the atmosphere which then become trapped and consequently increase the Earth’s temperature. These gases are like a blanket covering the Earth, inhibiting the escape of heat. The GHG include carbon dioxide (created mainly through burning of fossil fuels and also waste wood products), methane (produced during production and transportation of coal, oil and natural gas as well as from livestock and other agricultural activities), and nitrous oxide (emitted during agricultural and some industrial activities). These gases remain in the atmosphere for different periods of time, some for up to thousands of years.
Due to carbon dioxide’s long life in the atmosphere, this greenhouse gas is expected to influence the warming of the Earth’s surface through to the end of the 21st century and beyond. An increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius until the end of century will have adverse consequences on many aspects of our lives. Various studies suggest that by 2050, the reduction in greenhouse gases needs to increase from 40% to 70% in order to keep the temperature increase below the 2 degree Celsius threshold.
There is growing recognition around the world that we must act fast to tackle this issue. Global warming has the potential to cause devastating weather patterns across the globe such as floods, extreme cold fronts, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels. Some of these impacts have already been felt.
However, our lifestyles mean we will still require energy sources. The focus therefore necessarily turns to the alternative renewable resources available to us. In this respect, we are lucky in Australia to have access to extensive renewable resources, particularly in sun and wind.