by Brenda and Kenji
As we look to the future, there are some big picture issues to mull over. As we exhaust the Earth’s resources, two questions naturally arise. Firstly, what can we do to sustain life on Earth? Secondly, will we be able to colonize other planets? We did some research to provide some answers.
Future Renewable Energy
We’re in the midst of a critical period in human history. As awareness about potential future energy crises spread, we’ve taken wonderful steps forward in implementing renewable energy solutions. However, even though we have set ourselves up for success, the final destination of the clean energy revolution remains obscured behind a convoluted, delicate path. Already, a fifth or our world’s electricity is now generated by renewable energy, and annually huge amounts of clean energy installations are cropping up globally for fractions of their previous cost. However, to take the next few steps, we are still in desperate need of sound decision-making and global teamwork. Developing the infrastructure for large-scale clean energy is extremely difficult. It requires effective energy storage solutions that can still deliver electricity at a reasonable price, clear-cut long-term energy policy that can create a sustainable market for renewable energy, putting a price on carbon emissions, and many further leaps forward for the technology that must be backed by generous funding. Luckily, global leaders are, for the most part, in tune with this need, and some of the biggest carbon emitters have taken some big steps forward.
Firstly, China is fully on board the green energy train. They are the largest investor in renewable energy after putting $126.6 billion into the technology in 2017. By 2020, China seeks to generate 110 gigawatts of solar power, which is enough to power more than 30 million homes. By 2030, they are planning on having 20% of their total energy come from non-fossil fuels, which would be up from 13% right now. This would be a rapid turnaround, and is a lofty, inspiring goal.
India is also setting big goals. They seek to have 40% of their installed electrical capacity sources from non-fossil fuels by 2030. Currently, fossil fuels meet 82% of their demand, most of which is coal energy at 57.9%—they seek to cut this down to 50% by 2040. As a quickly emerging economy, this change will have to keep up with rapidly growing energy demand, but since India is extremely rich in renewable resources, they believe they’ll be able to pull it off.
Lastly, although the United States has been subject to some questionable leadership decisions involving renewable energy, they’re also on track to make a big impact. The Trump administration may have withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation in mid-2017, and is threatening to cut funding to renewable energy programs, but through all that the United States had 18% of their 2017 electricity produced by renewable sources. This is up three percent from 2016. Even through government antics, green trends have been sustained by market forces, as renewable energy costs have been plummeting due to innovation, while the solar and wind energy industries have created jobs faster than the rest of the economy.
Overall the future is promising. If we’re able to follow through on our goals, then we will have navigated one of the most challenging obstacles humans have faced in centuries. We’ll just have to do our part, and hope for the best.
Growing concerns of climate change and pollution are leading many to believe that the Earth may reach a point where it becomes unsustainable and uninhabitable. The idea of colonizing other planets, specifically Mars, is becoming more of a priority as it may be the only option once Earth is no longer sustainable. Research conducted by NASA has shown the presence of water and fertile soil on the surface of Mars, leading those to believe that Mars can sustain human life. Mars also possesses the most similarities to Earth as a solar day on Mars is 24 hours and 39 minutes, and it also has similar active tilt which allows for the existence of seasons. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is a leader in the Mars colonization race with their focuses on commercial and cargo spaceflight development, and starting a colony on the planet by 2024.
There are several proposed methods in the colonization process of Mars. Terraforming the planet, the process of engineering Mars’ surface and climate to make it more hospitable for mankind, is a hypothetical concept that would essentially turn Mars into the next Earth. According to NASA, there is currently no available technology to successfully achieve this feat with almost 20 years of observational research needed before the possibility can even begin to be a real consideration. The most realistic option would be the creation of artificial habitats on Mars that contain complicated life-support systems to fix suitable atmospheric conditions for humans. These habitats would also need a sophisticated water processing system, such as the ISS water recovery system, but at a much larger scale. Temperature and pressure control are also key to maintaining the success of these habitats.
Much still needs to be done for the successful colonization of Mars to begin. While ambitious timelines have been proposed to reach the foreign planet in the next five years, colonization realistically will not be able to begin until the next few decades.