Today, few decision makers would deny the existence of global warming and the fact that we have to do something about it. Human activity and the generation of electricity share a huge part of the blame for global warming, especially in wealthy countries where industrial development began in the mid-19th century. We at Necsa believe that the generation of nuclear power plays a big part in fighting the problem of global warming. Using more nuclear power reduces the release of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides into the atmosphere. We all have to fight global warming and become part of the solution to stop suffocating our planet. The solutions range from using more nuclear power, developing renewable energy sources, encouraging mass-transit, implementing stricter energy-saving measures and planting forests.
What is Global Warming?
Global warming, more popularly referred to as the "greenhouse effect", results from a disturbance of the very delicate energy balance within the earth's atmosphere due to the presence of above normal concentrations of radioatively active gases.
A delicate balance
These gases selectively absorb long wave radiation emitted from the earth's surface and lower atmosphere. Normally, there is a very delicate balance between incoming and outgoing radiation leading to life-sustaining average temperatures of about +15°C. Without any greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere, the average temperature on the earth's surface would be as low as -18°C, making present life impossible. Normal concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere are, therefore, vital to man's well being.
An above normal increase in greenhouse gas concentration within the earth's atmosphere disturbs this very delicate balance, leading via a complex series of coupled processes, to a warming of the earth's surface in the lower atmosphere and a cooling of the upper atmosphere. These coupled processes, which include various natural sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, are extremely complex to model quantitatively. In general, the usually quoted predictions lie in the range of an average temperature increase of between +2°C and +5°C for a doubling of the greenhouse gas concentration in the earth's atmosphere.
Consequent melting of polar ice caps will lead to a sea level rise of between 20 cm and 100 cm and almost certainly to a wide scale alteration of the world's present weather and rain fall patterns(1). The earth's known climate is the result of a very delicate balance between various forces in nature and a long range disturbance in this fine balance may lead to disastrous long term consequences to life on earth as known today. Hence, the worlds increasing concern about the ever accelerating increase in man-made greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere.
Read more about the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, the role of Nuclear Energy and future strategies in South Africa.
“Global warming and South Africa's future electricity generation options.” STUMPF, Waldo E and KING, John A South African Nuclear Energy Corporation.