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Global Warming and Alternative Energy Sources Research Paper

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Global Warming and Alternative Energy

People are inflicting major damage to the Earth's environment, and if we don't do anything to stop the destruction soon, the results could be devastating. Most people know about global warming and think it may be a serious problem in the future. What most people don't understand is that global warming is happening now, and we are already feeling some of its destructive power. Because of the dangerous effects of global warming, alternative energy sources need to be aggressively pursued. Finding and utilizing alternative energy sources may be the only way to combat the increase of global warming.

"Scientists agree that the main reason for global warming is the depletion of the ozone layer surrounding the Earth due to increased levels of carbon dioxide and the increased release of greenhouse gas emissions." Dr. Robert Watson from The Alliance of Concerned Scientists also adds, "These atmospheric concentrations of emissions are directly linked to human activities." Fossil fuel emissions from gasoline and oil account for 52% of greenhouse gas emissions while coal burning energy plants and coal burning factories account for another 44% of emissions released (Samuelson 31). Americans especially are adding to global warming woes being 'energy hogs' driving gas-guzzling SUVs and cars, and being careless with energy draining appliances in their homes. Deforestization in the US and other countries also adds to the growing problem by taking away the largest source of CO2 filters. Millions of trees are harvested each year due to increased demand for their byproducts, and because of this, our environment suffers (Kenworthy 2). The United States accounts for over 51% of the energy used yearly through out the world. From 2000 - 2004 there was a 100% increase in greenhouse gas emissions in all established nations, and there seems to be no slowing down in the future with a projected 110% energy increase by 2010. At this rate scientists agree the world will be facing an energy crisis by 2020 if new energy sources aren't found (McQuinn).

The results of global warming are undeniably negative for the human race. Over the past ten years, the average surface temperature of earth has risen five degrees. Even though five degrees doesn't seem like a major change, it has caused a disruption in the Earth's fragile ecosystem (Watson 3). This increase has caused the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, which has caused the sea level to rise by a reported inch and a half so far. If the temperature continues to rise, coastal areas could soon become flooded. Large partitions of New York City, New Orleans, and other cities on or near the coast could be found under water in the near future (Watson 4). The disruption of the ecosystem has also been attributed to extreme weather changes. The world is experiencing warmer and more frequent heat waves, more extreme floods, longer and more devastating droughts, more frequent wild fires, more tornadoes, and many more hurricanes than ever before. The occurrence of forest fires in California has risen 15% in the past 3 years. The Western plains region is experiencing its longest reported drought in the past 200 years. The Gulf Coast has experienced a 47% increase in hurricanes in the past two years alone (Samuelson 32). Lives and properties are lost due to extreme storms, and scientists believe they will only get worse as global warming continues.

Alternative energy sources may be the only answer to our growing world energy crisis. In the past century, humanity has made many great strides in the development of new energy solutions. One of the most utilized clean energy sources is nuclear energy because of its impressive efficiency. The past couple of years, there have been some concerns about nuclear energy plants and their safety. Chernobyl is still in the minds of many as more nuclear power plants are being built, but new safety technology and procedures are being adapted and nuclear power is now safer than ever. Tom Kenworthy from the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment states, "Nuclear power very well could be the best choice to reduce the threat arguably posed by fossil fuels. It is a clean, practical alternative that would satisfy the world economy's growing energy demand." Today there are 212 nuclear power plants in the world and the number is expected to rise to 250 in the next five years. Nuclear power already provides 75% of power in France and 20% here in the United States (McQuinn). Like nuclear energy, wind energy is also becoming more popular and efficient. Large wind turbines powered completely by wind gusts generate up to 233 megawatts of power every minute (Roberts 12). Homeowners and farmers can now own their own wind turbines and have their unused energy purchased by energy companies. Wind energy is very popular in Germany especially where at least 33% of the countries energy comes completely from wind turbines (Roberts 13).

Solar power is nothing completely new; it has been used for years to power small devices from calculators to watches, but what is new is its improved efficiency. Solar panels can be used to collect energy from the sun and now are being used on a much larger scale. Homeowners and business can use energy generated from the panels to power their homes and offices and have it purchased by energy suppliers. Solar power is proving to be an economical energy source available to the public that is consumer friendly.

The newest and most exciting energy alternative source today is the biofuel ethanol and its possible replacement of unleaded gasoline. Ethanol is almost entirely distilled field corn that has comparative fuel efficiency to gasoline. Unlike fossil fuels, Ethanol, when burned, emits no ozone depleting emissions or harmful gases. It is even cheaper to distill than it is to drill oil. Ethanol is already being sold by some gas stations in the form of E85; an 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline blend. Many carmakers such as Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai are manufacturing cars that are able to run on higher concentrations of Ethanol fuel (McQuinn). The discovery and use of Ethanol has had a positive impact on American agriculture. Ethanol is giving business to the American farmer for fuel needs instead of Middle Eastern oil titans, and keeping American money in the states instead of the most unstable regions in the world. For all of alternative energy's positive attributes, the general public has yet to fully jump onboard.

"The only major issue with alternative energy is its high price tag," claims Dennis McQuinn from the Coalition for the Prevention of Global Warming. "Consumers have to pay much more for energy saving light bulbs, energy friendly appliances and



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