It can be endlessly difficult to find out how energy works and how energy affects the environment. Maybe you do not have the time to get into all the facts, although of course, it is something you want. It’s something that we humans use all the time.
So what’s the answer to the question? The truth is that there is no simple answer, but we will try to explain it.
There are three primary types of energy that produce energy: fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, and renewable energy types. All types of energy affect the environment in different ways. When you produce, convert, distribute and use energy.
The kind of energy that affects the environment most is fossil fuels that burn coal, oil, peat and natural gas. To extract energy from fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are formed which adversely affects the climate. 30% of Sweden’s energy consumption comes from fossil fuels.
Nuclear power’s environmental impact is primarily about radiation risks when uranium is extracted from the ground and what happens when spent nuclear fuel is to be stored in the bedrock.
Renewable energy types, such as hydropower, wind power, solar energy, and biofuels, also affect the environment. Among other things, by degrading the lives of different animals and plants.
When industries, buildings, and transport then use energy, emissions occur that also affect the climate in different ways. Since fossil fuels are the energy production that affects the environment most, we naturally wish that use would be reduced.
So why doesn’t it do it then?
For example, in many countries such as China, the United Kingdom, and Germany, the coal industry has been significant to the country’s development, and it is, therefore, difficult to wind down the entire industry. In other countries, fossil fuels are barely produced. But on occasions when the demand for electricity is high, for example during the winter, it may be that the own country’s energy is not enough. Then some countries need to import energy from, for example. So even if a country only uses renewable energies, when a country imports energy, it may not be renewable.
Environmental impact from fossil fuels
Combustion of oil, coal, peat and natural gas, so-called fossil fuels, is the largest source of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions. Emissions affect the climate, give rise to acidification of forests and soil and cause health problems.
Nuclear power’s environmental impact
Nuclear power’s greatest environmental impact is radiation risks and environmental effects when uranium is extracted from the ground and when spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste are to be disposed of in the bedrock.
Nuclear power plants also release small amounts of radioactive substances into the air and affect the marine environment when used cooling water raises the temperature of the seawater. Some other power plants also release heat into watercourses but to a much lesser extent.
Environmental impact from renewable energy types
Hydropower, wind power, solar energy, and biofuel are renewable energy types, which affect the environment in different ways.
Hydroelectric power stations can, for example, deteriorate habitats and distribution routes for animals and plants.
When building wind turbines, consideration should be given to areas with high natural values or threatened species.
Tree parts that cannot be used for timber or pulp are taken out of the forest to be used as biofuels, but this should be done in such a way that biodiversity is preserved.
All parts of society affect energy use and the environment
Energy is used in all parts of society, but especially in:
In these sectors, fuels are used in, for example, factories and cars, but fuels are also consumed in the production of electricity and district heating, which are distributed to, among others, buildings. When fuels are used, emissions occur. Emissions from biofuels do not amplify the greenhouse effect and climate change, but the emissions contain nitrogen oxides and particles.
For flowing energy sources such as solar, wind, and water, the production of materials and equipment causes emissions in the same way as the production of other energy plants.