Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Fight off climate change skeptics by confusing them with the truth, ask: Which energy is not from the sun. It’s not fossil fuels.
Fun ways to stump a climate change skeptic. Skeptics like to halt climate change action by claiming "green is a religion" and use misinformation to build confusion. When coming across a climate change skeptic, the conversation will go nowhere, so you might as well have some fun trying to be educational. If you're in that situation ask them: excluding nuclear, which energy source does not come from the sun? Most forms of fuel/energy on the earth are derived from the sun. The sun itself is not a renewable energy source. It is destined to burn out and become a red giant, the kind of star that will run on helium fusion instead of hydrogen fusion; the sun at this size would engulf the Earth and global warming would take on a whole new meaning (in 5B years). For now, the sun is still the mother of all energy- except for one.
Oil, coal, and gas come from the sun; they are all forms of organic matter that decomposed. This organic material was once plants that captured the energy of the sun through photosynthesis or were organisms that ate these plants. The 'fossil' in the term 'fossil fuel' comes from the masses of microorganisms (phytoplankton and zooplankton) that died and were buried in the ocean (dinosaur fossils can also be potentially in the mix). The high pressures of the buried after-life combined with high heat transformed the organic matter, fusing it with minerals, thus creating oil and natural gas. Coal is most likely from decomposed plants.
Solar energy is the easiest to understand its sunny origins. Sunlight hits a solar panel and the chemical structure of the panel allows electrons to move producing an electrical current. Hook panels up to some batteries or an electric grid and there's instant power.
Wind is also sun energy. Wind is caused by the pressure differences on the surface of the planet. The poles are cold, the tropics are warm; what heats the tropics of course is the sun. More precisely: heat rises at the equator, where it is warmed by the sun, and it heads for the poles to reach a balance. On the surface of the earth the cooler air heads to the equator. The lateral spinning of the earth creates the Coriolis Effect which spins the wind in the east and west directions.
Tidal & Hydropower. Hydropower comes from dams and tidal from the ocean. These would be gravitational sources of power and therefore the only supply not derived from the sun. Hydropower allows water to build pressure behind a dam, when the water is released it will spin a turbine to form electricity. Tidal is a little more interesting, but the effect is the same, water pushed up by the tide will turn a turbine when the tide falls, thus producing electricity. There you go, fight the confusion of climate change skeptics with education, but best to avoid them when possible.
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