Essay On Pollution Earths Enemy Number One

essay on pollution earth's enemy number one

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essay on pollution earth's enemy number one

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Thesis statement for a comparison contrast essay essay on books are our best friends for class 7 worksheet research papers on climate change youtube save our nature environmental pollution refers to the introduction of harmful pollutants into the environment.

IS GROWTH bad for the environment? It is certainly fashionable in some quarters to argue that trade and capitalism are choking the planet to death. Yet it is also nonsense. As our survey of the environment this week explains, there is little evidence to back up such alarmism. On the contrary, there is reason to believe not only that growth can be compatible with greenery, but that it often bolsters it.

This is not, however, to say that there are no environmental problems to worry about. In particular, the needlessly dirty, unhealthy and inefficient way in which we use energy is the biggest source of environmental fouling. That is why it makes sense to start a slow shift away from today's filthy use of fossil fuels towards a cleaner, low-carbon future.

There are three reasons for calling for such an energy revolution. First, a switch to cleaner energy would make tackling other green concerns a lot easier. That is because dealing with many of these—treating chemical waste, recycling aluminium or incinerating municipal rubbish, for instance—is in itself an energy-intensive task. The second reason is climate change. The most sensible way for governments to tackle this genuine (but long-term) problem is to send a powerful signal that the world must move towards a low-carbon future. That will spur all sorts of innovations in clean energy.


The third reason is the most pressing of all: human health. In poor countries, where inefficient power stations, sooty coal boilers and bad ventilation are the norm, air pollution is one of the leading preventable causes of death. It affects some of the rich world too. From Athens to Beijing, the impact of fine particles released by the combustion of fossil fuels, and especially coal, is among today's biggest public-health concerns.

Dethroning King Coal

The dream of cleaner energy will never be realised as long as the balance is tilted toward dirty technologies. For a start, governments must scrap perverse subsidies that actually encourage the consumption of fossil fuels. Some of these, such as cash given by Spain and Germany to the coal industry, are blatantly wrong-headed. Others are less obvious, but no less damaging. A clause in America's Clean Air Act exempts old coal plants from complying with current emissions rules, so much of America's electricity is now produced by coal plants that are over 30 years old. Rather than closing this loophole, the Bush administration has announced measures that will give those dirty old clunkers a new lease on life. Nor are poor countries blameless: many subsidise electricity heavily in the name of helping poor people, but rich farmers and urban elites then get to guzzle cheap (mostly coal-fired) power.

The harm done to human health and the environment from burning fossil fuels is not reflected in the price of those fuels, especially coal, in most countries

That points to a second prescription: the rich world could usefully help poorer countries to switch to cleaner energy. A forthcoming study by the International Energy Agency estimates that there are 1.6 billion people in the world who are unable to use modern energy. They often walk many miles to fetch wood, or collect cow dung, to use as fuel. As the poor world grows richer in coming decades, and builds thousands of power plants, many more such unfortunates will get electricity. That good news will come with a snag. Unless the rich world intervenes, many of these plants will burn coal in a dirty way. The resultant surge in carbon emissions will cast a grim shadow over the coming decades. Ending subsidies for exporters of fossil-fuel power plants might help. But stronger action is probably needed, meaning that the rich world must be ready to pay for the poor to switch to low-carbon energy. This should not be regarded as mere charity, but rather as a form of insurance against global warming.

The final and most crucial step is to start pricing energy properly. At the moment, the harm done to human health and the environment from burning fossil fuels is not reflected in the price of those fuels, especially coal, in most countries. There is no perfect way to do this, but one good idea is for governments to impose a tax based on carbon emissions. Such a tax could be introduced gradually, with the revenues raised returned as reductions in, say, labour taxes. That would make absolutely clear that the time has come to stop burning dirty fuels such as coal, using today's technologies.

The dawning of the age of hydrogen

None of these changes need kill off coal altogether. Rather, they would provide a much-needed boost to the development of low-carbon technologies. Naturally, renewables such as solar and wind will get a boost. But so too would “sequestration”, an innovative way of using fossil fuels without releasing carbon into the air (see article).

This matters for two reasons. For a start, there is so much cheap coal, distributed all over the world, that poor countries are bound to burn it. The second reason is that sequestration offers a fine stepping-stone to squeaky clean hydrogen energy. Once the energy trapped in coal is unleashed and its carbon sequestered, energy-laden hydrogen can be used directly in fuel cells. These nifty inventions can power a laptop, car or home without any harmful emissions at all.

It will take time to get to this hydrogen age, but there are promising harbingers. Within a few years, nearly every big car maker plans to have fuel-cell cars on the road. Power plants using this technology are already trickling on to the market. Most big oil companies have active hydrogen and carbon-sequestration efforts under way. Even some green groups opposed to all things fossil say they are willing to accept sequestration as a bridge to a renewables-based hydrogen future.

Best of all, this approach offers even defenders of coal a realistic long-term plan for tackling climate change. Since he rejected the UN's Kyoto treaty on climate change, George Bush has been portrayed as a stooge for the energy industry. This week, California's legislature forged ahead by passing restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases; a Senate committee has acted similarly. Mr Bush, who has made surprisingly positive comments about carbon sequestration and fuel cells, could silence the critics by following suit. By cracking down on carbon and embracing hydrogen, he could even lead.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition

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