What Effects Do Renewable Energy Sources Have on the Environment?

Everyone loves saving the environment, but not all eco-friendly actions are created equal. What effects do renewable energy sources have on the environment? Let’s dive in and find out.

Has Technology Solved Our Energy Dependency?

When solar energy first came on the scene, it was considered expensive and largely unnecessary. At the time, fossil fuel-generated electricity was relatively affordable and had vast amounts of power available when needed. Electric cars were a luxury item for most people and solar power couldn’t generate enough electricity to make a real difference.

Fast forward several decades and we’re finally at the point where renewable energy sources can compete on a price-per-unit basis with traditional energy providers. The technology continues to evolve and become more efficient, allowing for further cost reductions. The benefits of renewable energy are now being felt by millions of people around the world.

A World Of Difference

Depending on which study you read, solar energy is either a vital part of our energy future or an expensive distraction that does little to help us reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. There’s a big world of difference between the two perspectives. From an environmental standpoint, we can say that the only thing that matters is how much energy we consume, not how we produce it. The less reliant we are on fossil fuels, the better, especially now that we know that climate change is a very real and severe problem.

Renewable energy allows for greater degrees of energy independence, which in turn reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and the dangerous gases that accompany them. In some regions of the world, especially in the developing world, solar energy allows for greater economic opportunities and improves the lives of those who use it. If we save the environment by cutting off our dependence on fossil fuels, even in a small way, that’s a win-win situation.

A Major Driver Of Environmental Change

It’s one thing to acknowledge that renewable energy sources can be a vital part of our collective effort to reduce our impact on the environment. It’s quite another to quantify the exact effects that renewable energy has on the environment. That’s a difficult task, requiring vast amounts of data and a reliable source of data that can be trusted. If we’re going to move towards a renewable energy future, then the numbers don’t lie and neither do the facts. They’ll certainly make it easier to convince people that switching to a more sustainable energy source is the right thing to do.

Decreased Environmental Load

A large amount of the damage that we as a society cause to the environment is unintentional. That is, we don’t mean to cut down all the trees or pour garbage into our oceans, but we end up doing exactly that because we haven’t considered the consequences of our actions. The less garbage that we produce, the less damage we cause unintentionally. This is the theory behind recycling and eco-friendly practices such as energy efficiency.

When it comes to producing energy, we often think in terms of the devices that produce it. Batteries, for example, are a major source of environmental pollution when disposed of improperly. When batteries break, they often leak toxic chemicals which are both dangerous and difficult to clean up. On the flip side, when properly disposed of, the chemicals inside batteries are non-toxic and highly recyclable. In some cases, the metals used in batteries are toxic. Unless these metals are recycled, they’ll continue to plague the environment.

One major source of unintentional damage to the environment is electricity generation. The manufacturing processes behind large-scale power plants are incredibly polluting, causing millions of gallons of water to be wasted each year. The pollution costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars daily in damages to our environment. Fortunately, this can be greatly reduced with renewable energy sources. When solar energy generates electricity, it doesn’t emit any toxins or harmful gases. It also doesn’t cost anything to produce.

Benefits For Animals And The Planet As A Whole

Animals, too, are affected by our dependence on fossil fuels. When animals are sacrificed for food, either directly through fishing or indirectly through conversion to meat, they’re often times not treated humanely, causing them great pain and suffering. This also has a domino effect, causing more animals to be sacrificed to make more food.

Indirectly through our dependence on fossil fuels, animals are affected by climate change. Plants and trees, the primary sources of oxygen, are also negatively affected by increased carbon dioxide concentrations. The more we pump into the atmosphere, the worse the climate will become. That is, until we find a way to decrease our energy consumption and shift towards renewable energy sources.

In addition to improving our quality of life, cutting off our dependency on fossil fuels has numerous other advantages. It decreases our vulnerability to energy shortages, which was once again, caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. There’s also the matter of saving money, which we can use to invest in other areas of society that would likely improve our lives. The money that we would have spent on fossil fuels could have been used to build homes, hospitals, or any number of other essential areas of society.

A Bigger Picture

To really put the aforementioned problems in perspective, it would be wise to examine the big picture, as opposed to just the energy side. Our dependency on oil and natural gas is deep-rooted and goes far beyond electricity generation and usage. To fully understand the effects of fossil fuels on the environment, we have to look at the entire industrial food system, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Consider the matter of food transport, which is largely dependent on fossil fuels. There’s also the manufacturing of food, which is dependent on fossil fuels. To recap, we are extremely dependent on fossil fuels for our energy needs but also for many other aspects of our daily lives, from transportation to refrigeration. That being said, we aren’t powerless. There are many things that we, as a society, can do to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and fight climate change. We just have to be willing to make the necessary changes.

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