Future Federal Legislation
The following is a list and description of potential future federal legislation efforts regarding climate change.
Greater Emphasis on Alternative Energy Sources
Renewable energy: Renewable energy currently provides 18 percent of total electricity generation worldwide and this percentage is growing each year. Renewable power generators are spread across many countries, and wind power alone already provides a significant share of electricity in some areas. Solar water heating makes an important and growing contribution in many countries, most notably in China, which now has 70 percent of the global total (180 GWth). Worldwide, total installed solar water heating systems meet a portion of the water heating needs of over 70 million households. The use of biomass for heating continues to grow as well. In Sweden, national use of biomass energy has surpassed that of oil. Direct geothermal heating is also growing rapidly. Renewable biofuels for transportation, such as ethanol fuel and biodiesel, have contributed to a significant decline in oil consumption in the United States since 2006. The 93 billion liters of biofuels produced worldwide in 2009 displaced the equivalent of an estimated 68 billion liters of gasoline, equal to about 5 percent of world gasoline production. Scientists have advanced a plan to power 100% of the world's energy with wind, hydroelectric, and solar power by the year 2030, recommending renewable energy subsidies and a price on carbon reflecting its cost for flood and related expenses.
Nuclear power: Nuclear power currently produces 13-14% of the world's electricity. Since about 2001 the term nuclear renaissance has been used to refer to a possible nuclear power industry revival, driven by rising fossil fuel prices and new concerns about meeting greenhouse gas emission limits. However, nuclear power brings with it important waste disposal, safety, and security risks which are unique among low-carbon energy sources.
Natural Gas: Natural gas (predominantly methane) produces less greenhouses gases per energy unit gained than oil which in turn produces less than coal. The combustion of natural gas emits almost 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil, and just under 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal. Thus the increased use of natural gas can serve to lessen the emission of greenhouse gases in the United States.
Greater Emphasis on Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Efficient energy use, sometimes simply called "energy efficiency", is the goal of efforts to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. For example, insulating a home allows a building to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature. Installing fluorescent lights or natural skylights reduces the amount of energy required to attain the same level of illumination compared to using traditional incandescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights use two-thirds less energy and may last 6 to 10 times longer than incandescent lights. Energy efficiency has proved to be a cost-effective strategy for building economies without necessarily growing energy consumption.
Energy conservation is broader than energy efficiency in that it encompasses using less energy to achieve a lesser energy service, for example through behavioral change, as well as encompassing energy efficiency. Examples of conservation without efficiency improvements would be heating a room less in winter, driving less, or working in a less brightly lit room.
Increase in Energy Efficient Transportation
Modern energy efficient technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and development of new technologies, such as hydrogen cars, may reduce the consumption of petroleum and emissions of carbon dioxide. Increased use of biofuels (such as ethanol fuel and biodiesel that can be used in today's diesel and gasoline engines) could also reduce emissions if produced environmentally efficiently, especially in conjunction with regular hybrids and plug-in hybrids. For electric vehicles, the reduction of carbon emissions will improve further if the way the required electricity is generated is low-carbon (from renewable energy sources).
Greater Attention to Urban Planning
Urban planning also has an effect on energy use. Between 1982 and 1997, the amount of land consumed for urban development in the United States increased by 47 percent while the nation's population grew by only 17 percent. Inefficient land use development practices have increased infrastructure costs as well as the amount of energy needed for transportation, community services, and buildings. At the same time, a growing number of citizens and government officials have begun advocating a smarter approach to land use planning. These smart growth practices include compact community development, multiple transportation choices, mixed land uses, and practices to conserve green space. These programs offer environmental, economic, and quality-of-life benefits; and they also serve to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
Changing Building Design
Emissions from housing are substantial and government-supported energy efficiency programmes can make a difference. New buildings can be constructed using passive solar building design, low-energy building, or zero-energy building techniques, using renewable heat sources. Existing buildings can be made more efficient through the use of insulation, high-efficiency appliances, double- or triple-glazed gas-filled windows, external window shades, and building orientation and siting. Renewable heat sources such as shallow geothermal and passive solar energy reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted.
Almost 20% (8 GtCO2/year) of total greenhouse-gas emissions were from deforestation in 2007. The Stern Review found that, based on the opportunity costs of the land use that would no longer be available for agriculture if deforestation were avoided, emission savings from avoided deforestation could potentially reduce CO2 emissions for under $5/tCO2, possibly as little as $1/tCO2. Afforestation and reforestation could save at least another 1GtCO2/year, at an estimated cost of $5/tCO2 to $15/tCO2. The Review determined these figures by assessing 8 countries responsible for 70% of global deforestation emissions. Further significant savings from other non-energy-related-emissions could be gained through cuts to agricultural emissions, fugitive emissions, waste emissions, and emissions from various industrial processes.
Eliminating Waste Methane
Methane is a significantly more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In terms of prevention, vaccines are in the works in Australia to reduce significant global warming contributions from methane released by livestock via flatulence and eructation.
Greater Emphasis on Greenhouse Gas Remediation
Carbon sequestration has been proposed as a method of reducing the amount of radiative forcing. Carbon sequestration is a term that describes processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Biomass: During its growth, biomass traps carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. When the biomass decomposes or is combusted, the carbon is again released as carbon dioxide. This process is part of the global carbon cycle. Through the use of biomass for energy and materials, e.g. in biomass fuelled power plants, parts of this cycle is controlled by man. Combining these biomass systems with carbon capture and storage technologies, so called bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, BECCS, is achieved. BECCS systems results in net-negative carbon dioxide emissions, i.e. the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Carbon Capture and Storage: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a plan to mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources such as power plants and subsequently storing it away safely instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
Attention to Societal Controls: Another method being examined is to make carbon a new currency by introducing tradeable "Personal Carbon Credits". The idea being it will encourage and motivate individuals to reduce their 'carbon footprint' by the way they live. Each citizen will receive a free annual quota of carbon that they can use to travel, buy food, and go about their business. It has been suggested that by using this concept it could actually solve two problems; pollution and poverty.
Efforts Toward Population Control
Various organizations promote population control as a means for mitigating global warming. Proposed measures include improving access to family planning and reproductive health care and information, reducing natalistic politics, public education about the consequences of continued population growth, and improving access of women to education and economic opportunities. Population control efforts are impeded by there being somewhat of a taboo in some countries against considering any such efforts. Also, various religions discourage or prohibit some or all forms of birth control.
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