GEOG 438W
Human Dimensions of Global Warming

Summary

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Unless society can sharply and quickly reduce its emission of GHGs to the atmosphere, climate change will be significant. The main source of those emissions is the energy sector and the fossil fuels upon which it relies. Therefore, to reduce emissions, the sector must either

  1. capture and store emissions or
  2. stop burning fossil fuels.

As demonstrated, CCS is an immature technology with many outstanding concerns; most experts think it will never come to fruition or, at best, is decades away from maturation. To stop burning fossil fuels, cost-effective alternative energy technology systems must be developed and deployed quickly. This scenario is unlikely, however, because government and industry are not putting the necessary resources into research and development––primarily because of a combination of socioeconomic inertia and the massive vested interests combatting the new technologies. It is certain that emissions from the energy sector will get far worse before they get better.

In this lesson, you learned about the energy sector's contributions to climate change. The lecture helped you discover that this sector contributes more GHGs to the atmosphere than any other sector. You found that there are three broad categories of GHG emissions from the energy sector: mobile emisisons, stationary emissions, and fugitive emissions. You observed that energy demand and consumption is growing rapidly, especially in many of the most heavily populated and underdeveloped areas of the globe. You saw that so-called clean coal technologies still produce huge quantities of GHGs and that natural gas generates significantly fewer GHGs, but that only non-fossil fuel technologies emit negligible amounts of GHGs. You finished the lecture by learning about the mitigation potential of the energy sector and that carbon capture and storage may not be the "silver bullet" that allows us to continue burning fossil fuels indiscriminantly. The reading assignment suggested ways that society can apply already-established technologies to mitigate climate change, and the writing assignment gave you a chance to explore three of those technologies.

Reminder - Complete all of the Lesson 4 tasks!

You have reached the end of Lesson 4! Double-check the Lesson Assignments list on the Lesson 4 Overview page to make sure you have completed all of the tasks listed there.