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14.4 Energy resources

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14.4 Energy resources (ESBRR)

At present we rely mainly on oil and coal resources to provide our energy needs. However these resources are non-renewable energy sources and have many negative effects on the environment. Alternative sources of energy are constantly being investigated to assess if they will be able to provide for our growing energy needs. If we ignore these alternatives, one day we will run out of oil and coal reserves.

One of the most debated topics around energy resources is climate change. Scientists and environmentalists disagree as to the causes and effects of climate change and whether or not it actually exists.

Climate change

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the distribution of weather patterns over periods of time ranging from decades to millennia. It is seen as changes in extreme weather events (freak storms, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.) and changes in the average weather conditions for cities and regions.

Scientists collect data about climate change from ice core drilling, floral and faunal records, glacial and periglacial processes, isotopic analysis and from many other methods. Each of these methods provides different indicators of how the Earth's climate has changed over time.

Many factors influence the Earth's climate such as the amount of solar radiation received, changes in the Earth's orbit, changes on the Earth's surface, such as continental drift and size of polar ice caps, etc. All these factors combined make it difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes a particular change in climate. Also the effects of these events can take centuries to fully develop.

Human activities such as mining, burning of fossil fuels and agriculture also have an effect on the climate. Scientists are largely in agreement that the climate is changing irreversibly and that humans are a big cause of this change.

What is not agreed upon is how big an effect humans have and how much of a problem it is. At present global temperatures are found to be increasing and polar ice caps are found to be decreasing in size. Whether humans are simply making this worse or are actually causing the change is not yet understood.

Despite the debate, humans do need to be aware of their impact on the environment and will need to come up with ways to reduce it.

  1. Discuss the above information.

  2. Discuss ways in which human activities impact on the enviroment.

  3. Discuss ways in which this impact can be reduced.

  4. Conduct research on climate change and the debates about it. Critically analyse the information and draw your own conclusions. Discuss these ideas and conclusions with your classmates.