Energy related environmental problems
Energy is considered a prime agent in the generation of wealth and a significant factor in economic development. The importance of energy in economic development is recognised universally and historical data verify that there is a strong relationship between the availability of energy and economic activity. Although at the early 70s, after the oil crisis, the concern was on the cost of energy, during the past two decades, the risk and reality of environmental degradation have become more apparent. The growing evidence of environmental problems is due to a combination of several factors since the environmental impact of human activities has grown dramatically. This is due to the increase of the world population, energy consumption and industrial activities. Achieving solutions to environmental problems that humanity faces today requires long-term potential actions for sustainable development. In this respect, renewable energy resources appear to be one of the most efficient and effective solutions.
A few years ago, most environmental analysis and legal control instruments concentrated on conventional pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulates, and carbon monoxide (CO). Recently however, environmental concern has extended to the control of hazardous air pollutants, which are usually toxic chemical substances which are harmful even in small doses, as well as to other globally significant pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2). Additionally, developments in industrial processes and structures have led to new environmental problems. A detailed description of these gaseous and particulate pollutants and their impacts on the environment and human life is presented by Dincer [3,4].
One of the most widely accepted definitions of sustainable development is: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. There are many factors that can help to achieve sustainable development. Today, one of the main factors that must be considered is energy and one of the most important issues is the requirement for a supply of energy that is fully sustainable [5,6]. A secure supply of energy is generally agreed to be a necessary, but not a sufficient requirement for development within a society. Furthermore, for a sustainable development within a society it is required that a sustainable supply of energy and effective and efficient utilization of energy resources are secured. Such a supply in the long-term should be readily available at reasonable cost, be sustainable and be able to be utilized for all the required tasks without causing negative societal impacts. This is why there is a close connection between renewable sources of energy and sustainable development.
Pollution depends on energy consumption. Today the world daily oil consumption is 76 million barrels. Despite the well-known consequences of fossil fuel combustion on the environment, this is expected to increase to 123 million barrels per day by the year 2025 . There are a large number of factors which are significant in the determination of the future level of the energy consumption and production. Such factors include population growth, economic performance, consumer tastes and technological developments. Furthermore, governmental policies concerning energy and developments in the world energy markets will certainly play a key role in the future level and pattern of energy production and consumption .
Another parameter to be considered is the world population. This is expected to double by the middle of this century and as economic development will certainly continue to grow, the global demand for energy is expected to increase. Today much evidence exists, which suggests that the future of our planet and of the generations to come will be negatively impacted if humans keep degrading the environment. Currently, three environmental problems are internationally known; these are the acid precipitation, the stratospheric ozone depletion, and the global climate change. These are analysed in more detail below.