While in the 20th century climate change was just a ghastly subject to scare humans, 21st century people definitely have to face the reality and cope with a warmer climate and its consequences. Since the industrial revolution, humanity has a significant role in altering the environment and we experience its consequences in the form of intense heat waves and heavy downpours. What is more, global warming is showing its effects all over the world, glaciers are shrinking at the poles and the temperature of the seas and oceans is rising, leaving thousands of animals without their natural habitat and proper access to food. Extreme weather phenomena, droughts, floods, hurricanes, dog days in Scandinavia may lead to new challenges and the realizing of old ones, including water scarcity, rising sea level, famine and new diseases. Most industrial activities we depend on nowadays have raised atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels. Carbon-dioxide and methane are greenhouses gases that easily reflect the heat back to the surface.
So the question is, what can WE do to end all these horrors and escape from the prison of climate change. The key point is always education and raising awareness. But when words can’t find ears we have to act and show the results, in order to people to find the right way. And doing something starts locally. I live in Hungary, in the heart of Europe, so this area, Central Europe, home of 150 million people, is the one I know, the one I can write about.
Although Central European countries are heavily dependent on foreign energy resources and coal is still one of the most important ways to gain energy, the region is on its way to find its own self-sufficient and sustainable energy and has many improvements on every field. One solution is renewable energy. Austria, with using about 30 % of renewable energy resources from its total energy consumption, and Slovenia, with about 18 % are the leading countries in Central Europe using renewable energies, while Hungary and the Czech Republic, with their 9 % are at the very back of the line.
Renewable energy resources in Central Europe include biomass and geothermal energy, wind, hydropower and solar energy. Energy gained from these resources are eco-friendly and won’t threaten the lives of our grandchildren, renewable, therefore we can use them over and over again without running out from it and cheap.
They gain biomass by burning organic materials. Although, with the ignition it releases carbon emission, it was claimed renewable in the EU and in the UN, because organic materials can be replaced. It is the biggest contributor to renewable energy in the EU with over 50 % and mostly used as fuel. Not so long ago, in 2013, in Poland a biomass fired power plant was built, showing the region the importance of green energy. It is also a promising alternative for the Czech Republic’s agricultural sector. Not only it could cover the domestic bio-energy demand but it could also be exported to other EU countries.
Geothermal energy, which is mainly used for heating houses, is generated in the Earth. It uses the inner heat of our planet, thus it’s unfailing. Hungary mainly uses its geothermal energy in its famous spas, in agriculture and to bottle mineral water. Hungary has a really good location regarding geothermal energy, nevertheless can’t use it efficiently as the same amount of water should be put back as it was gained. Thanks to geological reasons it is cumbersome yet.
Wind turbines are used to generate electricity with the help of the horizontal movement of the air, wind. It is gaining popularity across Europe as with enough wind turbines the world’s electricity usage could be covered. Flat regions, the North European Plain in Poland, the Little Hungarian Plain and South Slovakia are perfect examples of producing electricity with the help of the wind.
Hydropower uses the energy of falling or flowing water. Throughout history it helped people in agriculture, irrigation and industry. In Central Europe Slovakia uses the biggest amount of water energy, 17% of its total energy. The Gabčíkovo–Nagymaros Dams on the Danube were originally built to prevent catastrophic floods, improve river navigability and produce clean electricity.
Solar energy is probably the most famous renewable energy resource in the world. Using radiant light from the Sun it creates pure energy that can be used in various ways. It will be accessible as long as we have the Sun, hence for about 5 billion years- according to scientists. Europe has never experienced as many sunny hours in a year as it experiences now and Europe has no shame taking an advantage of it. By the end of this year, in Central Europe, Hungary’s electricity production could be boosted to its multiples, if they finish every planned project - starting from power plants harvesting radiation to schools heated with solar energy.
Climate change is dangerous – it affects our lives and the lives of our descendants, it has a role in agriculture and therefore in economy, the way of adapting is not the same for everyone depending on age or adaptability. We only have one home, and if we don’t protect it and don’t value its treasures, we won’t have a chance to enjoy it. Defending our planet should be a priority for people and using renewable energy resources is one of the easiest ways for it. Trust me, the Earth will be thankful for the effort you made.
Written by: Rebeka Oláh
Rebeka Oláh is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.