located ALONG the Pacific seaboard of South America, the Republic of Chile has a land area of 292,183 sq. mi. (756,950 sq. km.), with a population of 16,598,074 (2007 est.), and a population density of 57 people per sq. mi. (22 people per sq. km.). With 5 percent of the land arable, 21 percent of Chile is forested, with 1.15 million hectares of plantation forests, most of which is pine. In spite of a heavy reliance on mining, Chile has a relatively low level of carbon dioxide emissions—2.7 metric tons per person in 1990, rising to 4.1 metric tons in 1999, and then falling to 3.7 metric tons in 2003. Most of the carbon dioxide emissions come from liquid fuels (56 percent). Twenty-eight percent of emissions come from transportation, largely through heavy use of cars. The public transport system is very good in some parts of the country, such as in the capital, Santiago, and the area around it including Valparaiso, but many people rely on the use of cars, leading to considerable urban congestion in Santiago.
Some 30 percent of Chile's carbon dioxide emissions come from the use of solid fuels, largely made up from heavy use of coal for electricity generation, with 51.2 percent of electricity coming from fossil fuels, and 46.6 percent from hydropower. Chile has operated hydroelectric power plants since 1897, when the Chivilingo Hydroelectric Plant was built, only the second to operate in South America. Since then, the Chilean energy company Empresa Nacional de Electricidad S.A. (ENDESA) has built a number of other hydroelectric plants such as the Colbún Hydroelectric Plant, located in the Maule region; the Pangue and Penuenche Hydroelectric Plants, situated on the upper Bío-Bío River; the Pullinque Hydroelectric Plant using water from the Pullinque Lake; and the Ralco Hydroelectric Plant.
Chile faces serious problems resulting from climate change and global warming. The El Niño effect has caused some damage to the Chilean wine industry, with less rainfall likely to lead to a decline in grape yields. There has been a steady increase in the annual average temperature since 1939, with the rate of warming doubling in the last 40 years, and more than tripling in the last 25 years; this has also been noticed in the Andes Mountains and in other parts of the country. This has had a major effect on the southern parts of Chile, where there has been glacial melting; the rising water levels in Chilean Patagonia are expected to flood some of the small islands off the country's southern coast.
The ozone hole also is expected to lead to a rise in the prevalence of skin cancer over the next decades. Global warming and climate change has caused much damage to Chilean Antarctica, which the Chilean government, unlike the other nations that have territory in Antarctica, regards as an integral part of the country.
The Chilean government of Patricio Aylwin Azócar ratified the Vienna Convention soon after he became president in 1992, and Chile took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May of the same year. The government of Azócar's successor, Eduardo Frei, signed the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on June 17, 1998; it was ratified on August 26, 2002, and took effect on February 16, 2005.
SEE ALSO: El Niño and La Niña; Floods; Glaciers, Retreating; Global Warming.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Peter Lewis, "Out of the Classroom and Into the Andes," Geographical Magazine (February 2004); Carsten Peter, "Probing Chile's Wild Coast," National Geographic (v.199/6, 2001); World Resources Institute, "Chile—Climate and Atmosphere," www.earthtrends.wri. org (cited October 2007).
JUSTIN CORFIELD Geelong Grammar School, Australia
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Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.