Is climate-friendly energy possible?

To effectively slow climate change, we need to burn much less fossil fuel and switch to “LOW-CARBON” energy sources, which release much less greenhouse gas into the atmosphere [1]. Low-carbon energy types are split into 2 main categories:

1) RENEWABLES: these include wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass, wave and tidal power [1,6]. Renewable energy is captured from existing flows of energy from natural processes [2].

2) NUCLEAR FISSION: this involves splitting atoms (the tiny particles that are the building blocks of everything) [4]. Although nuclear power is not “renewable”, it is still “low-carbon” because very little CO2 is released per unit energy generated compared to burning fossil fuels [1]. In fact, nuclear energy has a lower carbon footprint than some types of renewable energy [5].

There is one more option: continuing to use fossil fuels, but capturing the CO2 before it can enter the atmosphere [9]. This is called CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE [9]. This technology is currently less well developed [PS1] and less affordable than renewables and nuclear energy, but this is likely to change [10].

In 2018 about 16% of global electricity was from hydroelectric power, 9% was from other renewable sources, and 10% was from nuclear [8]. Although renewables have been on the increase, this simply made up for the decrease in nuclear power since the 1990s [7] – fossil fuel use is still on the increase [11]!

How do we know which is best to limit climate change? There are a few things to consider: effects on climate change, efficiency, cost, location, and safety. Check out our upcoming posts to learn how the different types of low-carbon energy work, and which are the most promising!

References

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