The Current Global Energy Crisis Points to Our Need to Go Net-Zero
Written by Hailey Tapia, Spring 2022 Editorial Intern at Berkeley Pharma Tech.
Energy is a key part of our daily lives. From our homes and personal tech to transportation and industries, nearly all things around us depend on energy. Our modern world needs energy now more than ever, and as we scramble for energy sources, a global energy crisis looms. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are also increasing, posing even more challenges for our planet. There are parallels — and a direct relationship, in fact — between the energy crisis and the carbon crisis, and we must treat them with the same urgency. As for the root of both issues? Fossil fuels.
The World’s Heavy Reliance on Fossil Fuel
The high global energy demand is driven by a variety of factors. First, in a technologically advanced society, more energy is necessary to make products for the growing populations. Secondly, harsh weather conditions, like the winters in Europe — potentially made longer and colder by climate change — also make energy essential for people’s survival. Thirdly, geopolitics play a role, as can be seen in Russia’s reduction in gas exports in December 2021, causing energy security instability for Europe. In search of a solution, we turn back to fossil fuels, the burning of which has disastrous consequences on our planet.
These reasons prompt the obvious question: why nonrenewable energy? In theory, Europe and the rest of the world can simply use wind turbines or solar panels to run themselves. But there is not enough wind or sunlight in the winter, so in a crunch, some countries (such as Germany and China) turn to burning coal. Though convenient, this fossil fuel has negative effects on the environment, on our health, and, most notably, on climate change.
With energy demands, coal usage, and supply shortages around the world as extreme as they currently are, a global energy crisis is upon us. What’s more, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warns that countries are “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe” if they continue to rely on fossil fuels. Our dependence on them cannot be denied, either; the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects American fossil fuel production to continue rising in 2022 and reach a new record in 2023. Indeed, excessive fossil fuel consumption is wreaking havoc on our world.
Alarming Level of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere
Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a vital compound to Earth’s life cycles. CO2 emissions are mainly caused by human impacts, including deforestation, transportation, industrial manufacturing, and fossil fuel burning, but even basic human activities, like breathing, produce CO2. Trouble looms when there is too much of it in the atmosphere, though.
Carbon levels are the highest today they have been in at least the past 800,000 years. Excess atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to the greenhouse effect, or the trapping of heat close to Earth’s surface by greenhouse gases, the primary one being CO2. Trees and plants help lower these concentrations by naturally absorbing CO2 through photosynthesis. But we unfortunately tend to emit more CO2 than our flora can remove, spelling certain doom for our farms, food, and ecosystems.
Sadly, atmospheric carbon dioxide is only projected to increase. Despite global CO2 emissions registering the biggest annual decrease since at least 1965 in 2020, the burning of fossil fuels spiked faster than anticipated in 2021, releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and amplifying Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. High CO2 concentrations, much like the global energy crisis that we are facing, threaten our planet with irreversible damage. And the two are more connected than you may think.
How the Energy and Climate Crises are Interwoven
When burned, fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, making fossil fuels the driving force behind climate change. In the United States, they are responsible for over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions — and 98% of carbon dioxide emissions alone. And while natural processes can take in some of this CO2, an estimated 4.1 billion metric tons are put into our atmosphere every year, numbers our trees and plants are simply not naturally equipped to deal with.
In particular, coal is at fault for carbon dioxide concentrations. It has a high carbon content and puts out more CO2 than any other fossil fuel when burned, even twice as much as petroleum. In the U.S. electric power sector, it accounts for 83% of greenhouse gas emissions. Coal is also the main source of fuel for electricity worldwide, and as expected, global coal combustion is the number-one contributor to the human-made increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. What this all means is that coal and carbon dioxide are inextricably linked, and to lower one, we must lower the other. In truth, prolonging our uses of coal and other fossil fuels may very well lead to climate calamity.
What It All Means and What’s To Come
Our modern world is in desperate need of energy sources, though countries are not choosing the best ones. Fossil fuels contain carbon that plants removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis over millions of years; by burning fossil fuels, we are undoing this in just a few hundred years. It is crucial that our world adopts renewable energy while still possible, before the damage renders our planet uninhabitable.
Cutting back your energy consumption, even in the smallest of ways, can make a big difference. Consider turning off the lights when not in use, replacing incandescent lights with LED bulbs, washing clothes in cold water, or switching to solar power. More on reducing your carbon footprint can be found here. The severity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has disastrous implications for the climate, but through conscious efforts to reduce fossil fuel usage and thus CO2 emissions, we can ensure a cleaner and safer future for our planet.
Our Contribution Using CRISPR Research
Berkeley Pharma Tech will leverage CRISPR-Cas9 technology, a system of gene-editing techniques, to tackle decarbonization and climate change. We will genetically alter redwood trees to optimize them for carbon removal, decreasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. And through the CRISPR token, individuals like you can personally help fund our carbon capture project and make the promise of Net-Zero emissions a reality. Although our team focuses on restoring the planet’s atmosphere to low carbon levels using CRISPR, we also push for a transition to clean energy, so you can take comfort in Berkeley Pharma Tech’s commitment to a greener, more sustainable world for our generation and for generations to come.
About Berkeley Pharma Tech
Based in Silicon Valley, Berkeley Pharma Tech is a biotechnology incubator for today’s young scientists. We are making strides toward medical revolutions through a variety of avenues, including biomedical research, cryptocurrency engineering, and software development. Our goal for the CRISPR project is to create a cleaner, more vibrant environment for the next generation, with net zero — a state of balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and their removal from the atmosphere — being a focal point. For more information about the CRISPR project and Berkeley Pharma Tech, visit our website or any of our social media channels below.