Chapter 9: Energy
Energy is one of the most basic phenomenon in our lives. Everything we do from walking down the street to flying in a jet plane to the other side of the Earth requires that some type of energy be used. Energy comes from a variety of different sources, including: solar, nuclear, fossil fuel, hydro, oceanic, geothermal, biomass, wind, and electrical.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only change form, for example, hydro energy from dams is changed into electrical energy, the form into which most energy is changed by humans for our convenient use. Almost all energy on Earth, except for example, geothermal and nuclear energy, comes from our star, the Sun.
In particular, the fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas, come from transformed plant life which in turn derived its energy from the Sun in the photosynthesis process, discussed in the chapter on Plants, which essentially turns sunlight energy into fossil-fuel energy while taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting oxygen into the atmosphere.
The basic climate-change problem faced today happens because most of energy used by humans comes from burning fossil fuels. When burned, fossil fuels release the green-house gas CO2 into the atmosphere. This is the same CO2 gas that plants first started taking out of the CO2-rich, oxygen-poor, atmosphere over 300 million years ago. In addition plants have been sequestering, in the Earth, the carbon from this CO2 for million years. Once the CO2 is released to the atmosphere, it traps additional heat energy in the atmosphere, resulting in additional global warming, which in turn drives the climate change being experienced today. As this atmospheric CO2 increases, so does climate change. That is, CO2 is a major driving or forcing factor of climate change.
The severity of future climate change depends on how much more fossil fuel is burned. The human-made CO2-climate-forcing chain of events is scientifically clear, noncontroversial, and essentially unanimously agreed on by the major scientific organizations through out the world; the more fossil fuel burned, the more CO2 green-house gas is released into the atmosphere, so the greater the green-house effect, which increases global warming, which in turn, drives greater and more dangerous climate change.
For example, this CO2-climate forcing is so great that it overwhelms the effects of solar-climate forcing. So, for example, the likely hood that the Earth can go into a future Little Ice Age due to natural-solar-cycle climate forcing, is essentially zero.
Although the CO2-climate forcing is widely supported and accepted in the world-wide scientific community, it is not accepted, however, by the fossil-fuel industry, primarily because they have their own agenda for seeing fossil fuel use continue to grow; an agenda that is a clear vested-interest one of pure profit. This should not be at all surprising, since these entities, for the most part, are corporations who's major objective is to maximize the return-on-investment (ROI) to their shareholders.
To this end, the fossil-fuel industry will use just about any means to insure climate-change facts are misunderstood, discounted, distorted, or down played to encourage doubt and controversy in order to slow any efforts in curbing fossil fuel use or growth. They want people to go into a "wait-and-see" mode so that any effort to off set climate change is stalled. The longer the fossil-fuel industry can stall such efforts, the greater their profits, which are enormous, and thus the greater their ROI.
The inherit danger of this stalling approach, however, is that by the time the really bad things begin to happen, and they will if uncorrected, it maybe too late to do anything to stop it. The best Science we have now, tells us that we are in that critical period of time where it seems we may have a last chance to fix the climate change CO2 problem. We can do this, but will we?