Throughout the ages, people have mainly adopted new technologies to make their lives easier and for financial benefit, with comparatively little regard for environmental issues. Although both legislation and sustainable development programs have made environmental matters part of daily business activities, biodiversity is still decreasing and the threats posed by climate change remain.
The WWF’s Living Planet reports make for alarming reading. Wildlife populations are declining due to excessive use of natural resources and changes in land use. According to scientific reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), marine ecosystems are being particularly affected. We are in danger of losing something that money can never replace. Even if we cannot fully prevent adverse environmental effects, we can act more wisely than previous generations.
The activities of our modern society have an environmental impact, and the generation and use of electricity are no exception. Electricity plays a unique role in enabling a modern information and service-based society, but it is also a way of reducing environmental impacts due to fossil fuels. Actions to make electricity kinder to the environment will eventually bring us within reach of a society in which using energy to promote wellbeing no longer threatens the natural world.
In global terms, replacing coal with cleaner power sources will be the key environmental act enabled by the development of renewable electricity. In the United States, affordable wind power is already pricing out coal and it is estimated that coal use could end in 2030, radically reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the adverse effects of coal mining. Similarly, the European Green Deal is seeking ways to replace coal with renewable forms of energy in energy systems. Political will and the supporting financial solutions are enabling major as well as minor changes.
Our natural environment is so incredibly diverse that it is practically impossible to understand the overall effects of our actions and prevent all their negative impacts. Fortunately, we are aware of our situation and responsibilities.
We can build an electrical energy system with practically no particulate and carbon dioxide emissions, reduce the adverse impacts of land use, improve energy efficiency in various ways, make the transition from fossil-based traffic to cleaner energy sources, and enhance the circular economy.
Electricity has not only provided us means to stay in touch with our loved ones during the crisis but offers sustainable ways of developing our life in harmony with nature. With right choices we can make it happen.