Of the people who are casually environmentally conscious, most hold the belief that all fossil-fuel energy is bad, and that all renewable power sources are good – and they would certainly be right about fossil fuels.
However, it is time to second guess some renewable energy sources.
The extent of the fossil fuel industry’s responsibility for CO2 emissions is gargantuan. Over 78% of CO2 emissions in the United States in 2016 can be attributed to the burning of coal, oil and shale gas. The burning of fossil fuels has definitively caused significant harm to the planet; their CO2 heavy emissions have warmed it, and caused damage to the health of humans, flora and fauna.
Although most renewable energy sources don’t pose the same risks to human health as something like a coal burning plant, which can cause respiratory illnesses and cancers for those in its vicinity, some renewable energy sources pose a distinct threat to our ecosystem.
Hydropower: Not-So-Green Energy
Of all the renewable energy sources, there is one which stands heads and shoulders above the rest – as the most harmful to the planet. Dr Luke Gibson, of the University of Hong Kong, recently carried out a study where he analysed the environmental impact of different energy sources.
He did this through carrying out something environmental scientist call a ‘Life-Cycle Analysis’. This is similar to a ‘Cost/Benefit’ analysis, except it specifically focuses on how the benefits of an energy source out way the environmental impact it may have.
It was clear that hydropower was the most harmful to the planet. Hydropower poses a significant threat to some of the most important environments in the world. Australian scientist Professor William Laurence lamented the great damage hydropower has already caused to some of the world’s rainforests.
Hydroelectric dams have been known to displace communities; in China, the colossal Three Gorges Dam displaced 1.24 million people. The dam put an end to a whole host of traditional livelihoods, the existence of which depended on the Yangtze River.
Through the way dams affect the movement of water, they have been known to submerge a wealth of invaluable natural habitats. Because they can submerge farmland too, they’ve been known to endanger the food security of whole communities.
However, perhaps it is Brazil where the danger posed by hydropower is most keenly felt. In 2014, Greenpeace published a well-researched report explaining just how much damage proposed hydropower expansion would cause. It threatens massive deforestation in the Amazon, and devastating ecological consequences caused by flooding.
At least 80% of the developed world’s favourite foodstuffs come from the Amazon; these include avocados, tomatoes, coffee, and cocoa. Over half of the world’s 10 million species of flora and fauna exist in the Amazon rainforest, and it provides over 20% of the entire world’s oxygen. It is clear that any threat posed to this irreplaceable part of our planet must be stopped, so we protect its animals, plants – and the health of our own lungs.
A Bright Future with Solar Panels
According to research taken out by a team of scientists from the University of Yale, Norway and Santa Barbara, solar power shines the brightest among green energy sources. There is no more environmentally conscientious decision than fitting your home or business with solar panels offered in the UK.
They discovered that the whole process of establish a solar farm, from manufacturing, to installation, to operation, had less environmental impact than the mere act of delivering mined fuel to a coal-firing plant.
Of all the varying factors they measured, a solar farm had only one tenth of the harmful attributes of any fossil-fuel equivalent. This meant one-tenth of the instances of respiratory infections of humans in the surrounding area. One-tenth of the water and soil pollution.
Even better, solar panels do not pose a significant threat to any ecosystem they are a part of. A solar farm may take up a significant amount of space, however, it will not take up any more space than a conventional fossil fuel plant.
To preserve the environment, while generating green energy, solar panels are one of the best options.