TED Conversations

Noel Laporte

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What form of renewable energy has or will have the lowest impact on biodiversity?

Climate change, air pollution, rising sea levels and species extinction can all be attributed to the increasing usage of non-renewable energy in the world today. Non-renewable energy reserves are diminishing and finite with an ever-increasing demand from countries around the world. Coal, natural gas and oil all have detrimental effects on the environment. These effects are both local and global, harming species throughout the world. As we consider different renewable forms of energy, can we rank their potential impacts on biodiversity?


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    Apr 24 2013: This is something that I've always thought a lot about. Before everyone begins going all crazy on renewable energy sources, we need to make sure we understand how that source, or the process of creating that source, affects the environment, more specifically biodiversity. I think the most important thing to think about when creating this new energy source and how it will affect biodiversity, is to keep it simple. FInd an energy source that is simple, has little if any type of emission, and if it does have some sort of byproduct, make sure we know how to handle that byproduct in a way that it doesn't harm the environment or the creatures in the environment. Also, we need to be thinking about multiple sources, not just one that's going to fix everything, because we won't find it..

    Going away from crude oil, I think solar power, nuclear power, hydropower, and hydrogen power are a good start. Yes nuclear power and hydropower effect the environment in many negative ways and aren't renewable (expect hydropower which I think is), but these energy sources are important when supplying energy for large scale purposes like huge cities, and I believe we know enough about them to make these sources more efficient and so that their emissions and byproducts don't harm the environment or biodiversity. We are a long ways from hydrogen power and even though it's been a popular energy source since the 80's and no one has really figured out how to upscale this form of energy, I think it's the future for cars and other forms of transpiration.

    Check out this fun video from the 80's about hydrogen power!


    Even though finding an alternate energy source is important to biodiversity, I think the most important thing when it comes to human energy use and the environment is understanding that we use way to much energy. We as a species need to downsize our energy use first and foremost. That is the first step and hardest step we need to take!
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      Apr 24 2013: I think it's a good point that, with the point we're at in society, we really just need to have a greater understanding of our impact on the environment with our energy consumption on a societal level. I have a hard time seeing the human race making a global effort to downsize energy consumption, though I agree that that would be an amazing and important step for us to take. It's just that the global industrialization the capitalistic societies of most countries don't really lend themselves to movements like that, as sad as that is.

      I do like the idea of nuclear power and hydropower as alternatives for larger societies that wouldn't efficiently run off of wind and solar power, however I do think the two do have some serious cons that may be hard to get over. I feel that it would be extremely difficult to figure out a method to harness hydropower without damming rivers, and there is no way to 'minimize' the effects of damming a river that I can think of, but I could be wrong. It may just be a price that we're going to have to pay, though, because really, anything is better than our current situation.
    • Apr 24 2013: I think you bring up a good point by saying that we should be searching for multiple sources and not one source that would fix everything. Solar, wind or tidal energy aren't sufficient to supply large cities. However, these sources can be efficient in supplying smaller populations.
      Although tidal and wind power effects marine and bird populations, I believe their overall effect on these populations is not nearly as detrimental as the effect of releasing large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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