We are in the dawn of a new era. The world is approaching a cusp that has been holding us back from being 100% sustainable. No longer do we need to burn fuels to generate energy. No longer do we need to harm our planet to get around from place to place. No longer will we inhale toxic chemicals into our bodies simply as a byproduct of our daily operations.
It is time that everyone is aware of the state of our planet, the potential different forms of energy technology has, and the dire times that we will be facing if we do not change course. We have lived in ignorance long enough. Let’s live in awareness.
Lets look at a couple things. First we will investigate global warming, and then we will look at the effect that all of the carbon emissions are having on us.
As obvious as a problem that this is, there are still a lot of people who say global warming is not real. We can call them the crazies. However, the crazies are not the problem. The United States Senate has almost unanimously voted that climate change is occurring. The problem is that these people in charge of our nation, people who are in charge of affairs that affect the entire world, fail to acknowledge that global warming is man made.
The chart below was taken from NASA, and it shows the level of CO2 over the last 650,000 years. You can easily tell that as we approach the present, the activity of man has had a drastic effect on the Earth.
Correlation does not always equal causation, but in this case it does. All humans are here together on this planet, and right now we only have one planet to live on. There very well will be one day that we can leave here and live on other worlds, but that day is not yet here. We must recognize our own abilities to affect and influence the world around us.
Humans are creators. We have created everything that the material world holds dear. The modern civilization that we live in was in every part created by humans. That includes the most beautiful works of art, all the way to the burning-of-fuels energy that we depend on today. To say otherwise is pure ignorance. As we have collectively created the world we live in by our actions, we can do the same thing to course correct and fix the problems that we have gotten ourselves in.
Effect of Carbon Emissions
The increased carbon emissions have had a major effect on our climate. Here are just a few as taken from NASA.
- Sea Levels Rise: 17 centimeters in the last century
- Global Temperature Rises: 10 of the warmest years have been in the last 12
- Warming Oceans: .302 degrees F since 1969
- Shrinking Ice Sheets: Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
- Declining Arctic Sea Ice: Has declined rapidly over the last couple decades
- Glacial Retreat: Almost every spot in the world is experiencing this.
- Extreme Events: Record highs are more common and record lows are less common.
- Ocean Acidification: Since the industrial revolution, ocean acidity has increased 30%
- Decreased Snow Cover: Snow cover has decreased over the last 5 decades.
The necessity of a 100% sustainable planet cannot be over-emphasized. If we had unlimited clean energy for the planet, we could grow enough food to properly feed everyone, we could power the homes of the world, we could end world hunger and provide clean drinking water to the global populous. The climate issues that we have created could be reversed. We would have the potential to take our technological progression into an exponential cascade that propels us into a powerful new future, to other worlds and beyond. Sustainable energy is not a dream, it is a necessity.
Coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy are going to be topics that we study in history class. Just as we today reminisce about using the horse and carriage as our main form of transportation, we will be doing the same with combustion based automobiles and aviation. How you ask? Well, the human race has been making astronomical leaps in the progression of sustainable technology. We currently use a combination of solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass based energy systems to make up our renewable portfolio. However, there are many progressions that are being made in all of these forms of energy generation, and we are currently developing many new methods of energy production, including fusion, oceanic current, and electromagnetic.
Current Forms of Sustainable Energy
What we are currently using to generate renewable energy has been a phenomenal achievement by the human race to create a lasting impact. However we are in the ever moving paradigm of change, and this change requires vastly larger amount of sustainable energy to power our planet. The forms of renewable energy that we are currently using are progressing, and some of them may show promise for the future.
Solar energy is a big one. There is more energy that falls to earth just from the sun in one hour than the entire human population could use in an entire year. That is a lot of energy and we need to be utilizing it as much as we can! With the technology that we currently have, solar energy is powerful enough to help us keep our individual homes running in sunny areas, and there are places that have developed energy storage systems that can be used for up to 7 hours after the sun has set, ensuring that solar power energy production can be a nearly 24 hour operation.
A great application of solar technology is the ability to use chlorophyll in plants to harness the power of the sun. Nature has already done it, and done it well, so all we need to do is replicate her results. Some scientists are currently doing just this, and when the technology is ready we could literally apply this to windows and other surfaces that are exposed to the sun to collect energy.
Wind is perhaps the most popular form of renewable energy right now. We are popping up large scale wind turbines as fast as possible, and many European countries are using wind energy as a large part of their energy generation. In the United States alone, there are currently enough wind turbines available to produce over 168,000,000 MW of electricity per year. That is enough energy to remove 16.9 million cars worth of pollution from the environment.
Wind may currently be one of the most used forms of renewable energy, but that will change as more forms of renewables are developed. We use wind a lot, and in reality wind energy is doing wonders to currently curb the rise of fossil fuel production. However the total wind potential pales in comparison to the total amounts of energy the sun can provide us.
Energy generation from hydroelectric dams might be one of the least effective forms of renewable energy that we use. There may be a constant supply of potential energy that is built up behind the dam wall, but the damage that these energy systems do to the local wildlife populations and ecosystem is very severe.
Hydroelectric energy has higher methane emissions, can damage the local off land habitat, and does harmful damage to fish populations. We can use better routes.
Biomass energy production is the process of re-purposing spent plant and animal matter as a low carbon energy source. This form of energy production has not advanced as quickly as other forms of renewable energy, and it is not a true form of sustainable energy. Biomass energy production takes a fuel source to create energy, and thus we should look to others sources for energy.
Geothermal energy is created by using steam that rises from the earth to generate an electric charge. Some countries around the world currently use geothermal energy as up to 25% of their total energy source, but geothermal energy has it limits. The plants to make geothermal energy are extremely expensive, and the locations available to generate geothermal energy are limited.
Future Types of Sustainable Energy
Some of these you might consider pipe dreams, you might call impossible, and you might say are a waste of time. But lets first look at history. We once thought air flight was impossible. We once thought the internet would be a waste of time. We once thought the idea of picking up a wireless phone was a fairy tale. Things become possible when some brave person stands up to what they have been told their entire life and proclaims, “I will not let someone else tell me what is possible or impossible!”
It is not enough to reduce carbon emissions. It is not enough to cut back on oil production. It is not enough to rely on others to create some 20 or 30 or 40 year plan on emission reductions. We me act now. We must take risks to discover what has yet to be discovered.
The near future is what holds the key to massive amounts of clean, sustainable energy. To really see a monumental leap in sustainable energy production, these methods and technologies hold the key to our success. The great news is, the science fiction theme that comes with future sustainable energy products is no longer shrouding their development. Start-ups and companies worldwide are starting to develop new forms of energy production that will be able to help us reach the goal of space exploration and large scale technological growth.
There are three promising forms of future energy generation that are currently being developed, and they all could individually produce enough energy to supply the global energy demand. The development of these technologies needs to be a primary focus of scientists and engineers nationwide, as their perfection and implementation will drastically alter the course of our planet for the better. Fusion energy, oceanic current energy, and electromagnetic energy all show tremendous amounts of potential, and once perfected could each become a massive driver of our clean energy progression.
Fusion is the process that makes our sun create all of the energy that is constantly racing towards earth. If it was not for fusion energy, there would not be any life on this planet! Fusion is the process of taking two hydrogen atoms and squeezing them together until they are a helium atom. In turn, there is a massive amount of energy released. This sounds pretty straightforward, but this is actually one of the most difficult challenges of the 21st century. If we can perfect the process of fusion, then we could essentially create the same form of power as our very own sun!
There are actually a handful of companies around the globe that are trying to do just this. They are essential throwing a bunch of tiny little atoms at each other, and when we can successfully do this we will have quite the powerful energy generating machine. Lockheed Martin and General Fusion have both been making progress in fusion energy.
Oceanic current based energy is a front runner for powering our planet. This is the process of harnessing the power of the deep see currents that travel throughout the globe. Oceanic currents have massive amounts of energy behind them and are going to be in operation for a long, long time. When we are able to place oceanic turbines along the deep sea floor, then we would could collect this untapped energy source and use it as a completely renewable, sustainable energy source. This is already in development by a few companies, and oceanic current based energy generation has been looking very promising lately. Crowd Energy has been working hard recently to take their prototype to market.
Electromagnetic energy is the farthest stretch of them all. This is using the process of magnetic forces to create an electric charge. There have been a few inventors coming out of the wood-works in the last few years with their electromagnetic energy systems, and a few have been shown to actually work. These systems are powerful because they require no fuel and little to no maintenance. They just get turned on and produce a constant, steady stream of green energy.
When this type of energy system can be perfected, we could put them in homes, cities, and anywhere across the planet that needs an energy supply. Additionally, these generators would be the systems that we use to provide energy on other planets during space exploration and colonization, and they could be integrated into exploration vehicles to power them across space travel. Patrick J Kelly has compiled a great list of documents as a place to start.
You Make the Call, Time to get Involved
An informed decision is an intelligent decision. To truly live in a sustainable world, we must work together to make the change that we all want to see happen. Efforts as massive as these are seen to fruition by the global collective, not an individual success story. We all can play our own part in helping to keep the world a little bit cleaner and greener. You can take action. You can make a difference. You can share a story or an idea that can then lead to a domino effect of progress.
To get involved in helping make the world a little bit better, you can do things that literally take little to no effort. Turn off the lights when you are not using them. Recycle any waste that you can. Share your passion for a cleaner world. Donate to a nonprofit or social enterprise that is working to build renewable and sustainable energy systems. The actions you can take can be limitless, and all of us working together will begin a massive movement that snowballs into a lifestyle.