We all know that it’s important to save energy. In fact it’s been impossible to ignore the headlines telling us to do our bit for the environment, reduce our carbon footprint, adopt a greener lifestyle, and so on. But how many of us know the hard facts as to why we need to change our ways, and why saving energy is so important?
We need to motivate ourselves into becoming more efficient with the way we use energy in the home, at work and in our everyday lives. Understanding the full picture will help kick-start better energy habits sooner.
Every time we perform the simplest task that uses energy – from making a cup of tea to turning on the TV – the natural resource used to create that energy becomes further depleted. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. Fossil fuels, which we depend on to power the UK, are a finite source of energy and will run out sooner than many of us realise.
According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), renewable energy provides only 2.7 per cent of UK electricity and less than one per cent of overall energy use. That means that fossil fuels are more precious than ever until we resolve the problem of our reliance on them. Worryingly, industry experts predict that current oil reserves will only last another 40 years, and coal another 200 years at most – and that’s only if we carry on using energy at the rate we currently are.
At the same time as stripping the planet of its natural resources, our energy consumption is also drastically affecting its climate patterns. Each time a fossil fuel is burned, CO2 is released during the process into the atmosphere, changing the Earth’s natural climate and weather systems. While of course long hot summers and heat waves can be a welcome change to the usual wet weather in the UK, flooding, diminishing ice caps, droughts and extreme weather conditions around the world aren’t so desirable.
Here are some more startling predictions of what changes to climate could cause, and how we’ll be affected:
- Major floods may now start to happen every 10 or 20 years rather than once or twice a century
- Global sea levels could rise by almost a metre by 2100
- London and parts of the South East will be at a greater risk of flooding
- Exposure to higher levels of UV light could cause an extra 5,000 deaths a year from skin cancer
- Climate change may drive more of a quarter of land animals and plant species to extinction
Over a quarter of the CO2 produced in the UK comes from the fuel we use in our homes, so cutting the amount of energy each of us use would have a major impact. The WWF has called for a cut of at least 60 per cent in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
So far, the UK’s commitment to saving energy has been more talk and less action. The government set the goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by just 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2010, but are likely to fall well short of their targets. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions have recently risen due to the rise in the price of gas, meaning more coal (which produces the greater amount of CO2) being burned instead. And with the global economies of China and India booming, the amount of energy used in the world as a whole looks set to escalate further.
It’s easy to see why saving energy has taken main stage on the national and world agenda. And more than ever, there’s no excuse for not doing something about it.