Why Solar: We can all do our part to reduce our carbon footprint

The planet’s scientific community is continually focusing on global warming and the effects of greenhouse gases. This “focus” pervades our daily news, is a major topic of discussion around many a cup of coffee each day, and unless you have been lost in some jungle or remote Arctic location, it has probably invaded your conversations as well.

The Paris climate accord of 2015 came up with a commitment to keep the world’s average temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius.

However, if all the countries involved did manage to keep their commitment for 2030, the reduction in GHG would amount to 60 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

To keep global temperature below two degrees, a reduction of some 6,000 billion metric tons is required.

Even with 100% compliance by all members of the accord, the best case scenario, only one per cent of the climate issues would be addressed.

The scientific journal, Nature, reports “no major advanced industrialized country is on track to meet its pledges”.

We are a long way from wind, and solar producing 100% of all our energy needs. Stanford Energy Modeling Forum estimates the cost of reaching this lofty goal for each individual on the planet at €5,800 EUR or $8,758 CAD.

It is unlikely that the majority of the world inhabitants can afford anywhere near that amount, despite 82% of the citizens of the 13 countries polled, claiming a preference to generate all energy with wind, solar, tidal or geothermal.

The IEA, International Energy Agency, reported in their latest “Renewables Information 2017” document that currently 81.4% of the world’s energy is provided by fossil fuels, with coal at 28%, oil at 32% and gas 22%.

This is followed by nuclear at five per cent, hydro 2.5%, bio-fuels 4%, and wood 6%; solar photovoltaics, wind, and geothermal, form 0.13%, 0.53%, and 0.5% respectively. Collectively tidal and solar water heaters produce 0.3%.

With the disparity between reality and utopian green being so large we indeed have a long way to go to realize our goals, but should we throw our hands in the air and secede?

Undoubtedly not, the world’s technological and innovation leaders are endeavouring to find answers to these deep and perplexing problems, and they have made some remarkable practical advances in the field of nonconventional energy production.

However, the reality is, change is not going to come quickly, cheaply or without a major change in attitudes.

This mountain we need to climb may be large and expensive, but in the meantime we are going to have to learn to live with climate change while we develop our technical prowess.

Making carbon recovery profitable and readily available to industry is vital; from an individual perspective, switch off that light in the empty room, maybe utilize a photovoltaic panel or two.

Otherwise, buy the most efficient vehicle and appliances you can afford, and with air travel as one of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions, possibly stay closer to home for your holidays.

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@solartechnical.ca

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