Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, and the Role of Solar Energy

Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Solar

The unfortunate truth is as we embark on our mission to undo the damage humans have caused to the atmosphere, the effects of climate change are projected to still wreak havoc on our ecosystem.

International environmental agreements, legally set out in The Paris Agreement as of 2015, state intentions to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C or further state intentions to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C by the end of the century.

This means despite the best foreseeable outcome, with zero emissions, in some cases extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and 0.9 to 2.3 °C of warming by the end of the century, drought, heavy rainfall leading to severe floods, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and increase in temperature extremes are impacts that cannot be avoided.

The severity of these impacts would be less if not for the centuries following the industrial revolution, mankind releasing greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere, projections portraying a global warming of 3.2 to 5.4 °C by the end of the twenty-first century if we were to continue this century as we did in the twentieth century.

Our planet was in a fragile balance. By damaging our atmosphere, tearing down forests, burning natural non-renewable fossil fuel sources, we have actively disturbed the very order that actually allowed us to develop into animals intelligent enough to ask questions.

On the other hand, hindsight has granted us the privilege of foresight, as we reflect on the moments that suggested the inevitable.

First observing heat captured in glass boxes in the 1700s.

Second building the idea that our air captures heat much like a greenhouse.

Third discovering the natural greenhouse effect and further explaining that water vapour and carbon dioxide capture infrared radiation (heat).

Fourth slowly realising the impact of burning hydrocarbons and releasing carbon in different gaseous forms into the atmosphere.

Not only wasting Earth’s natural coal, oil, and gas supply, but causing devastating impact on our environment.

Infrared radiation is largely absorbed by carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, preventing the infrared radiation from escaping to space. This is the basis for climate change.

Now that we are truly and wholeheartedly fighting climate change, the future is one of better choices as humankind, to preserve the natural order of our living planet.

Our planet matters as all life matters. It’s not just human life that is affected by the changing weather and rising oceans and global warming, or the acidity of oceans. All of life is completely involved in the destressing realities of climate change.

So, the visionaries, scientists, and the media point to renewable energy solutions, to limit the chaos.

The sun has been a solution long before we even understood it. Socrates said the perfect home would be warm in winter and cool in summer, and ancient sunrooms were built to provide the benefits of the sun to anyone. Even towns drilled holes through caves on mountainsides to create ancient air conditioning that kept the whole town cool, and they would drink the water that dripped as the moist coastal air cooled as it pushed through the caves.

Now our image of solar is more focused on technology and less on architecture, though solar architecture is still a relevant and exciting topic for the future of civilisation.

Solar panels convert daylight, also called solar radiation, into direct current (DC) electricity. Daylight can be broken up by clouds and still cause electrons to move in solar cells, creating electricity.

Solar cells are made from silicon crystals formed by melting raw silicon and dropping a seed crystal, a hard crystal shaped like a big drill bit, into the silicon and rotating the crystal while pulling up the silicon. This forms a long silicon cylinder called an ingot which is then cut into small squares the size of coasters.

Silicon is not the only element capable of producing electricity from mere exposure to sunlight. For example, selenium solar cells were actually the initial venture into solar power and have recently entered the solar sphere again as a topic of interest, though highly inefficient compared to silicon cells.

The DC electricity output by solar panels can be converted to usable alternating current (AC) electricity via a solar inverter. Further, DC to AC to DC, AC to DC, and DC to DC conversions are also possible, mainly for use in charging batteries to store energy for later consumption.

Solar power is a completely renewable energy source and does not waste natural resources, though it digs up plots of land. Solar power can be achieved with zero emissions. It is the single step most of us can really take to protect our ecosystem.

Our future generations matter as much as us, and all plant and animal life will suffer worse if we don’t play our part in reaching a greener future.

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