Question: With so much controversy over onshore wind farms why aren’t they all built offshore?
Answer: Because it costs about two and a half times more to build and maintain wind farms in the sea.
Know this – debates about energy always revolve around costs.
World leaders from 147 countries are discussing climate change in Paris at the same time as the Beijing area of China is enduring air pollution 17 times the recommended limit so now seems like a good time for parents to talk to their children about the main points in relation to climate change…
The first thing to understand is that there is a great deal of disagreement amongst the scientific community about what is happening to our environment, how much of it is caused by man and what we can do about it. Just when you think you have a grasp on the subject, you read another article that is completely at odds with what you had already learned. What can be said with some degree of certainty is that what is happening is bad and that it would be really good if we could do something about it.
The evidence is that our world is warming up and the most significant consequence is that the ice caps are melting. If all the ice melted then sea levels would rise over 60 metres with unthinkable consequences for the countless millions of people who have chosen to build their towns and cities near the coasts. A sea level rise of even a metre would be catastrophic in many countries.
It is thought that the main reason for this “global warming” is the emission of gases that result from the burning of fossil fuels. We are burning coal and oil in vast quantities and the fumes from this process result in the build-up of several harmful gases in the atmosphere, not the least of which is carbon dioxide. The gasses effectively absorb more of the suns rays with the overall result that the planet warms up. We can’t do without carbon dioxide because it is a fundamental requirement of photosynthesis without which we would have no plant life; the problem is we are producing far too much of it – much more than the entire plant population of our world is using.
As well as rising sea levels there are two other significant impacts of all this surplus CO2 and other gasses. Firstly, tiny shifts in temperature lead to very unpredictable weather patterns with the potential for severe storms in some areas and severe drought it others. Secondly, marine life is very susceptible to temperature variations and research suggests that coral is already being badly affected.
The simple solution is for us to become less reliant on coal and oil by providing more of our energy from renewable sources, principally wind and solar. But there is a problem in that “renewables” are much more expensive than “fossils” and that brings us to the moral dilemma being discussed at the Climate Change Conference…
Developing countries such as India argue that cheap fossil fuels have allowed us in the western world to rapidly develop our economies and in the process we have been by far the biggest contributors to the “greenhouse gas” problem that we now face. The developing nations have added little to the problem (they have burned far less fossil fuels than us) but now they are being asked to convert to much more expensive fuels to help solve a problem that is not of their making. Is that fair?
No doubt your children will hear increasingly more about this moral maze and now would be a great time to get them thinking about it. This Environment Issues quiz might be a good place to start a discussion.