Earthsummit 2002 - A guide to UK Local Agenda 21 renewable energy projects. Earthsummit 2002
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Smoke pollution. Smoke pollution.

Energy use is fundamental to human civilisation. The future of human society depends on the continuing availability of energy. We need it to grow our food, provide our transport and to generate electricity to power our machines and homes. We all use electricity, yet few of us stop to think how it is generated, or how it affects our environment.

In the industrialised world we depend on fossil fuels for the bulk of energy needs. As world population continues to grow and the poorer nations of the world strive to catch up and close the gap with wealthy nations, the demand for energy grows too. This has two major implications for mankind:

• Fossil fuels will one day run out

• The threat of global warming and climate change which results from the burning of these fossil fuels.

Total energy use by developing countries is now overtaking that of OECD countries and is set to double in the next 10 years. India and China will be major deployers of coal - fired power stations. China, for example needs to bring about 1000 MW of capacity online to cope with increased demand for power.

It is imperative that we find alternative, clean sources of energy, coupled with energy efficiency measures to reduce our dependency of coal, oil and gas. Renewable energy sources can help us achieve a more sustainable energy future.

Global Warming

Global warming is the build-up of heat in the earth's atmosphere, rather like the sun heats up a green house. In the atmosphere, the build-up of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane act like glass in a greenhouse - these are called 'greenhouse gases'. The burning of fossil fuels is a major source of carbon dioxide.

While much uncertainty remains as to The speed and effects of global warming, It is now generally accepted that it is happening. Unless checked, its consequences are likely to be severe - major sea level rise and flooding of coastal and low lying areas, erratic and severe climate, disruption of agriculture and ecosystems, and the spread of disease.

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