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The need of electricity increases, but its impact on biodiversity can be huge

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© Juan E. Malo

Electrical energy represents only a fraction of the total energy consumption of human beings, but its magnitude continues to grow for two reasons: the general increase in energy consumption of humanity, and the fact that electricity increasingly replaces other sources of energy. 

This is evidenced by cases such as the replacement of wood or coal in kitchens and heating systems, and also the progressive electrification of means of transport. The current expansion of the electric car, and its predictions in the near future, exemplify this fact like no other case. These changes lead to the fact that, as has been said before, the generation and consumption of electricity are growing strongly, and they will not stop doing so even if intense energy saving and energy efficiency improvement plans are launched.

And experience shows that all the means of energy production used by man throughout history have left deep marks on the Earth’s ecosystems. The images of the tragedies that occurred at sea after accidents involving large oil tankers, with a multitude of birds dead or severely affected by crude oil, or those of beaches and cliffs covered by a thick layer of tar, are a vivid example of the associated impacts to the production, transportation, and use of petroleum. No less striking is the vision of the large mining basins in which the extraction of coal in the last two centuries has irreversibly altered the landscape, both from the perspective of its vegetation or fauna, as well as of the human populations settled in them. 

Even apparently less aggressive activities, such as the historical use of firewood for cooking and heating systems in houses, have led to the deforestation of large areas of the planet, a fact that is now evident in regions such as Europe. Here, the substitution of firewood for gas in the last 50 years has led to the reforestation of large areas of land, and the expansion of species such as wild boar or roe deer. So much so that, in some areas of Europe, at present more than 50% of car accidents on the road occur due to collisions with these wild animals. However, the most notable effects of the use of fossil fuels by humanity derive from the increase in greenhouse gases and climate change, which have already triggered all the alarms and forced the start of an energy transition on a planetary scale.

© Juan E. Malo
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Climate and Energy: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

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