Global Environmental Change Concepts

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Introduction

The increase in human population and economic activities has directly or indirectly affected the environment. Global environmental change refers to the transformation in the physical and biochemical features of the environment such as soil, water and biodiversity. The change may have occurred naturally, or, in many cases, influenced by man-made activities.

The man-made activities include urbanization, deforestation, and waste production among others. The manifestation of the impairment is felt both locally and internationally. Consequently, the world now faces issues like global warming, loss of biodiversity, famine, exhaustion of nonrenewable resources and poor health. According to Ghosh and Mark in their book Energy Resources and Systems, affordable environmental-friendly energy is important for the economic development of any nation (1).

There is a vast range of energy resources in the earth. Energy exists in gaseous liquid and solid state. Nevertheless, energy has to be transformed for it to be beneficial. Energy sources can be categorized into renewable and nonrenewable energy. Renewable energy refers to the resources that are constantly produced over a short duration. On the other hand, nonrenewable energy describes sources that are replenished slowly by natural processes such as fossil fuel and nuclear power.

What are the implications of finite mineral supplies? How should we address impending shortages?

The environment contains an abundant reserve of nonrenewable minerals. These minerals are distributed unevenly in different parts of the world. Some countries are greatly endowed with minerals while others have none. It is difficult for the minerals to be depleted. However, minerals can be economically depleted. This occurs when the cost of extraction is more than its market price. When a mineral is economically depleted, the users have a few options.

They can use substitutes, recycle the minerals or work without it. These options can ensure that resources are conserved. Miller and Scott assert that there is a sustainable way in which mineral resources can be used (362). One of the ways is the use of minerals to make affordable solar cells.

These cells can then be used to produce electricity. Another method is biomining. Biomining refers to the use of microbes in mining. This prevents the use of machinery which requires fuel. The third method is recycling. Recycling ensures that there is minimal wastage of mineral resources. These methods can reduce environmental degradation and enhance sustainability.

Economically, the theory of demand and supply can also be used to conserve minerals (Miller and Scott 361). Nonetheless, this theory has its limitation. In a perfect market, the price of a mineral will determine its supply. A cheap mineral will be highly demanded. If demand exceeds supply, the price of the mineral will increase.

Although this will reduce its demand, an increase in price can promote discovery of new mineral reserves, mining of low quality ores, and development of technological expertise. If this option is not promising, users can search for substitutes (Bhattacharyya 407). These measures promote environmental conservation. In countries where price control is not effective, other measures used by the government to encourage conservation include subsidies, levies, import duty and policies.

What is your opinion regarding the use of nuclear power as a source of energy? Describe the process involved in nuclear reaction and justify your position, citing the advantages and disadvantages of the use of nuclear power

Another source of nonrenewable energy is nuclear power. This resource has a lower environmental impact compared to fossil fuel. Apart from leakages that produce hazardous fumes, when nuclear accidents occur, they result in severe fires that are hard to put off. It is pertinent to note that some nuclear accidents can result from weather elements and well as natural disasters such as seismic events.

Nuclear power is harnessed in a nuclear power plant. Such a plant contains a reactor used to generate electricity. This is done through a process known as fission. Fission is a heat generating procedure which divides uranium atom in order to produce fuel rods (Johanson13). When these fuel rods are placed together, the rods stimulate reactions that produce heat. Nuclear production plants use up a relatively small space as opposed to the space required for mining coal or drilling oil.

Furthermore, the plants are designed to reduce radioactive leakage. The building material used and machinery safeguard all forms of radioactive escape. Thus, the threat of radioactivity contact is highly minimized. This means that nuclear energy as a low potential of air, water or soil pollution.

However, nuclear energy is expensive; the cost of building such plants and harnessing the energy is quite costly (Miller and Scott 391). Moreover, disposing radioactive waste produced in nuclear plants poses an intricate predicament. These wastes contain toxic substances capable of emitting harmful radioactive gases.

The damaging potential of radioactive material also makes it attractive to terrorist. Because nuclear energy poses a low environmental risk its advantage far outweighs its disadvantages. Similarly, Nuclear energy is used to power submarines through nuclear reaction. The nuclear reactors in submarines have detrimental effects in the eco-system and health. This is through the radiations they emit (Higgins 142).

If we continue to use fossil fuels at the rate we are currently using them we will need to open area like ANWR and additional sites in the Gulf of Mexico. Do you think this is desirable? If not, what effects might the failure to find such supplies have on our life and on the lives of our children or grandchildren?

In the past, people assumed that non-renewable energy sources were inexhaustible (Smith 11). Therefore, these resources have been abused. Although oil is beneficial it leads to environmental degradation in terms of water and air pollution. Moreover, oil releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which cause global warming.

Currently, Oil is the largest supplier of energy (Miller and Scott 370). This is because oil is affordable and available. It is used to fuel machinery, transport products and people. However, geologists have estimated that over 75% of oil reserves will be depleted by 2100 (Miller and Scott 370).

The United States is already facing an oil predicament (Smith12). Since the country is limited in oil reserves, it obtains most of the oil it uses from other countries. As a result, its dependence on oil makes it politically and economically vulnerable. One of the solutions imposed by the US House of Representatives to reduce oil dependence is the drilling of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

Nevertheless, this solution poses more problems for the United States because the area is ecologically unstable. Drilling would threaten the biodiversity that exists in the region. Using the oil in ANWR will also deny the future generation the opportunity to use it. Since the United States currently has a source of oil, I think it should hold these deposits for the future generation.

In order to prevent the looming crisis, there are three alternatives. These decisions include: the search for other oil reserves or substitutes, recycling used oil, avoid spills or waste and reduce the amount and the rate at which oil is used.

Which of the alternative /renewable energy sources do you think is the most viable for a country like the United States? How about a country like India? Identify the type of resource and provide a detailed explanation to support your position

Renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal power, offer better environmental opportunities compared to nonrenewable energy sources. In addition, these sources will never be depleted. The best alternative for a country like the United States would be wind energy (Brown 177).

This is because the country is endowed with finances and technology to build wind turbines to harness wind energy. So far, the United States have installed wind turbines to benefit more people. Wind energy is clean and environmentally friendly. Compared to the other renewable energy sources, wind energy is the least expensive (Miller and Scott 410). In fact, the country can use wind energy to break out of the cycle of fossil fuel dependency.

Solar energy is not a viable option considering the weather patterns. India experiences a hot climate throughout the year. Therefore, the best alternative for renewable energy is solar. Besides, India is a developing country with limited resources. Tapping solar energy is relatively cheap since each household would only require a silicon panel on the roofs of their houses. Solar energy is also available for everyone.

Using the three principles of sustainability, describe how Iceland’s pursuit of a renewable energy economy applies.

The first principle of sustainability states that the environment is supported by energy from the sun. In the absence of solar energy, the universe would collapse. The sun is the most important source of energy. Iceland is as a small Island with several hot springs, glaciers and volcanoes (Miller and Scott 399).

The molten rock beneath the surface of the earth generates heat to feed the volcano. In addition, water from the surrounding lakes is captured to generate electricity. Therefore Iceland obtains its energy from geothermal power. Geothermal power is generated from vapor and hot water found beneath the surface. The power obtained supplies more than three-quarters of their need.

The second principle of sustainability acknowledges that man-made activities contribute to environmental degradation. This occurs when human activities use up renewable energy faster than the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. The natural system fails to replenish resources because it is overloaded with waste substance and pollution. Because of the geographical local of Iceland, the country is deficient in fossil fuel deposits.

All the oil it requires to fuel industrial activities and the transport system is imported from other countries. However, Iceland is implementing policies that will see the country depend solely on renewable energy sources. The aim of the policy promoted by ‘Dr. Hydrogen’ is to use the electricity generated by geothermal energy to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. The use of hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity will produce water vapor, a gas which is environmental-friendly.

The third principle of sustainability points out the need to provide a solution and implementing the solution. The first solution for Iceland is to use hydrogen instead of depending on fossil fuels which degrade the environment. Hydrogen is found in plenty on the earth surface.

Works Cited

Bhattacharyya, Subhes C. Energy Economics: Concepts, Issues, Markets, and Governance. London: Springer. 2011. Print.

Brown, Charles E. World Energy Resources: International Geohydroscience and Energy Research Institute; with 44 Tables. Berlin: Springer. 2002. Print.

Ghosh, Tushar and Mark Prelas A. Energy Resources and Systems. Dordrecht: Springer. 2009. Print.

Higgins, Chris. Nuclear Submarine Disaster. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. 2002. Print

Johanson, Paula. Making Good Choices about Nonrenewable Resources. New York: Rosen Central, 2010. Print.

Miller, Tyler G and Scott Spoolman. Living in the Environment: Concepts, Connections, and Solutions. Connecticut: Cengage Learning. 2009. Print.

Smith, Kimberly K. Powering Our Future: An Energy Sourcebook for Sustainable Living. New York: Universe.2005. Print.