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Climate change denotes a lasting and great shift in weather patterns over inordinate lengths of times, which could be decades or millions of years. These lasting changes in climatic patterns may be caused by various factors such as changes in solar radiation, oceanic circulation, volcanic eruptions, plate tectonics and various anthropogenic factors. Climate change is currently a great concern for the whole world because of the extreme weather patterns being observed in various parts of the world. Excessive rains and desertification are some of the observable changes that are now occurring in places where this was not common. Anthropogenic factors have been cited as the most influential in terms of causing climate change. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions from industries and transport sector is the major reason behind climate change. The greenhouse gases create global warming, which is the rise in the earth’s average temperature. The rise in the atmospheric and ocean temperatures has shown a steady rise since the 19th century. The trend is projected to continue and thus posing a challenge to the stability of climatic patterns (Lomborg, 2010).
The use of technology and constant quest for industrialization has been cited as the major reason behind global warming and climate change. The power generation sector is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emission. The United States power sector produces 38% of carbon dioxide emissions (PEW Center on Global Climate Change, 2011). The emissions from the power generation sector are emitted from power generating plants burn natural gas and coal. Other sources of emissions include internal combustion engines used on motor vehicles that mostly burn fossil fuel (Axon, 2010). The agricultural sector also produces greenhouse gases through the release of nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertilizers and from bacteria in rice paddies as well as livestock digestive gases (Cline, 2007). Even though the use of technology is cited as the major cause of climate change and global warming, it is perceived that technological changes could also offer a solution. Sustainability in development and changes in technology are the key elements that can be used in reducing global warming.
Summary of Potential Solutions
Perhaps the first step towards reducing greenhouse gases should entail cutting down energy consumption by enhancing efficiency. The use of energy efficient lighting and conservation of heat in homes could help reduces needs of heating and lighting (Socolow & Pacala, 2004). The reduction in consumption will translate to a reduction in the fuels burned to generate the electricity. Additionally, new technologies in the production of electricity from burned fuels can be adopted as a means to reduce emissions. For example, power plants that use IGCC (Integrated gasification and combined cycle) process can deliver energy efficiently while reducing emissions through the conversion of coal to cleaner energy. IGCC technology converts coal to gas, which is burned to release energy. IGCC provides a better technological solution because it also incorporates a process through which carbon is captured for storage in geological formations under the ground (PEW Center on Global Climate Change, 2011). The US has pioneered the storage of carbon by building a demonstration plant, and it is expected that with right incentives and policies coal burning plants should incorporate the process. Technological fixes have also been developed that could see previously non-clean sources of energy become cleaner. Coal washing is an example of a technological fix that can be used in making coal a cleaner source with reduced emissions (Climate Lab Beta, 2010). Coal washing filters out impurities and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases when burned. In a bid to cut internal combustion engine fumes the public should increase the use of public transport systems so as to reduce the number of engines that burn fuel. Carbon sequestration, which entails the capture of carbon emissions for storage in underground geological formations also offers a more direct and long term solution (Karakoc, Hepbasli & Dincer, 2009).
The use of clean sources of energy such as solar and nuclear also offers a new option that can be utilized to provide a clean energy supply. These sources could enable the energy sector to reduce its reliance on carbon intensive energy sources. Increasing renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, wind power, solar and hydroelectricity can also go a long way in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (Lomborg, 2010; Ollhoff, 2010).
Technological options in the transport industry such as the development of hybrid electric vehicles that can be charged offer a solution that can lead to significant reduction of emissions from car engines. Research into alternative fuels has also shown that bio-fuel from crops could offer a sustainable source of energy that is cleaner than fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases (Omer, 2008). Sugar and corn based ethanol provides a viable source of energy for the transport industry. The use of bio-fuels offers a double solution by firstly reducing fossil fuels burned to give energy (Bielo, 2007). Secondly, it allows farmers to plant more crops, which are used in bio-fuel production. These crops take up carbon dioxide emissions and thus reducing the greenhouse gas levels. Blending of bio-fuels and gasoline also offers a technological option that ensures clean fuel is achieved in an affordable way. Hydrogen is also a promising alternative fuel that could possibly provide energy in the future. Research in this area has been extensively conducted with the US space program, but viability of realizing application is not yet at hand.
Other potential technological approaches to reducing global warming and climate change are still in the pipeline and the viability is yet to be proven. Examples in this category include various geo-engineering proposals. One of these is the replacement of the oceans’ carbonic acid with hydrochloric acid. The process is expected to accelerate underwater storage of carbon dioxide, which would have gone into the atmosphere (Harris, 2009). Equally promising, but not yet tried is the “ocean fertilization” proposal. The theory holds that if iron was scattered across the oceans, it would promote the prolific growth of phytoplankton. The rich phytoplankton growth is expected to greatly contribute to carbon dioxide reduction by taking up the carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Initial research in this area has not shown significant success (Harris, 2009). However, further research is still underway. The deflection of the solar heat away from the surface of the earth has also been proposed as a potential solution to global warming and climate change. The technological proposition entails the use of satellites or solar shields with movable reflectors. According to the proposition, if the process manages to block 8% of the radiation reaching the earth this would counteract the global warming caused by greenhouse gases. This idea is derived from the inspiration of the cooling effect which was attained by a volcanic eruption at Mount Pinatubo. The sulphate particles in the blast reflected a significant part of the sun’s radiation and thus caused a cooling effect by reducing the amount of radiation reaching the atmosphere (Harris, 2009).
In conclusion, climate change has been greatly as a result of global warming, which is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases. Technology and industrial development has accelerated the use of machinery, fossil fuel and machines and appliances that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the possible solutions to the problem should be aimed at reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency so as to cut down the use of fuels that are burned to produce electricity and other forms of energy. Apart from enhancing efficiency, alternative fuels are also a promising and viable means of reducing emissions. In this case clean sources of fuel such as bio-fuel and nuclear should be explored and developed so as to reduce on fossil fuel. Harnessing other cleaner sources of energy such as wind, geothermal and solar could also offer an option in reducing emissions. Above all, the reduction of energy consumption through increasing efficiency should be the major pursuit, while other alternatives such as those suggested in the geo-engineering proposals are pursued.