Renewable energy sources may save precious humanity from extinction

October 3, 2010

Green drive mitigates the devastating effects of deforestation.
By Binsal Abdul Kader and Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporters
October 3, 2010; Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Scientists estimate that between 150 and 200 species of life become extinct every 24 hours – a phenomenon threatening the very survival of human beings on Earth.

However, renewable energy can save biodiversity and mitigate the threat to humanity, according to a presentation delivered at the 11th World Renewable Energy Congress held in Abu Dhabi recently. The world’s forests, wetlands, coral reefs and other precious ecosystems and the rich biodiversity they harbour provide trillions of dollars worth of benefits each year. They feed and clothe human population, control floods and pollinate crops. One important outcome of introducing renewable energy is that it mitigates deforestation caused by the felling of trees for firewood.

Promoting renewable energy in deprived and remote areas is an important step to reduce the loss of biodiversity through community mobilisation, according to a presentation delivered by M. Abbaspour of the Graduate College of Environment and Energy, Science and Research at Iran’s Islamic Azad University.

An estimated 40 per cent of the global economy is based on biological products and processes, according to the United Nations (UN).

Fossil fuel consumption

The main reason for climate change and deforestation is the increasing consumption of fossil fuels and high energy demand.

In the rural areas, people resort to cutting trees to meet their energy needs for heating and cooking purposes.

The presentation centred on a project implemented by an Iranian community. The execution of this project was a valuable experience to show how we can bring local communities together to cooperate and find solutions to stop, or at least reduce, the negative consequences of these problems.

Renewable energy introduced in two villages helped reduce the loss of flora and fauna in the forest areas in Sari forest, in the Yakh-kesh region, near the Caspian Sea.

The forest is faced with the threat of deforestation due to the cutting of trees and illegal wood smuggling by people eager to meet their heating and cooking energy needs. This led to the loss of flora and fauna.

Among the different types of renewable energy, biogas was the most feasible.

Biogas is combustible gas used for cooking in agricultural communities. Composed of methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide, biogas is produced by fermenting animal, plant or human waste in the absence of oxygen – an anaerobic process.

Life forms: The biodiversity factor

Biodiversity refers to the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem or on the entire planet. Scientists have no clear idea of how many species – from algae to blue whales – live on earth. Estimates are up to 100 million, of which only about 1.8 million have been named so far. Humans are just but one of those species.

Biodiversity contributes directly or indirectly to many aspects of our well-being, for instance, by providing raw materials and contributing to our health. More than 60 per cent of the world’s people depend directly on plants for their medicines.

These living organisms, interacting among themselves and with the non-living environment, comprise the ecosystems of the world. They supply food, medicines, timber and fuel, and play a fundamental role in providing breathable air, conserving soils and stabilising climates.

These benefits, or ‘ecosystem services’, which are ultimately essential for human life on earth, are the basis of a range of industries, from agriculture and biotechnology to fisheries and ecotourism.

In April 2002, governments at the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed “to achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national levels, as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth”.

Unsustainable mode of operation

There have always been periods of extinction in the planet’s history, but the current episode of species extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced over the past 65 million years.

This mass extinction is due, in large measure, to humanity’s unsustainable methods of production and consumption, including the destruction of habitats, expanding cities, pollution, deforestation, global warming and the introduction of “invasive species”.

“Climate change is forecast to become one of the biggest threats to biodiversity,” the UN Convention on Biological Diversity said. “Approximately 20-30 per cent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at greater risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5 to 2.5 [degrees] Celsius”.

Source: UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme)

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