historically, finland was a poor country, but in the post-World War II era, it transformed itself. Finland in the 21st century has a highly developed industrial economy and a standard of living that places it among the 10 richest nations in the European Union. More sparsely populated than most European nations, modern Finland must still confront the environmental problems that trouble all industrialized countries. Severe winters and long distances separating parts of the population increase the need for fuel. These needs added to the heavy demands of energy-intensive industries make Finland's per capita energy consumption among the world's highest.
Since the 1970s, the Finnish government has been engaged in conservation, using state-owned enterprises and price controls to encourage responsible consumption. These measures, coupled with exploiting the abundant peat lands as a fuel source, and imposing high standards for energy efficiency in home construction reduced energy use for heating by more than 30 percent within 10 years. However, Finland's need for energy continued to expand, as did the problems from dependence on fossil fuels. As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the nation is committed to the reduction of greenhouse gases. As a member of the Arctic Council, Finland recognizes the greater urgency experienced by nations whose Arctic areas are face warming at twice the rate of the rest of the Earth.
Global warming in the 20th century increased temperatures in Finland by approximately 1.3 degrees F (0.7 degrees C). With further increases, Finland could experience a dramatic increase in annual precipitation. The climate changes could decrease energy demands, as warmer winters would require less fuel, and the increased rainfall could lead to increased productivity in agriculture and timber. On the other hand, changes will result in heavier flooding, which, in turn, will speed coastal erosion and pose additional threats to biodiversity. In 2007, species of butterflies and fish typically seen in warmer climes had already made their way to Finland, and environmentalists expressed concern about the effects of melting permafrost on reindeer, a crucial ingredient in the economy and the culture of the Sami people of northern Finland.
From 2000 through 2005, the World Economic forum ranked Finland in the top position in the
Environmental Sustainability Index, and the 2006 Yale University study accorded Finland the third spot in its Environmental Performance Index. Finland has benefited from is heavily forested land (72 percent of the country) in decreasing its CO2 levels. The country also ranks high in its use of renewable energy. Because many Finns use wood from their own forests as a secondary source of heat, and because the pulp and paper business burns its byproducts, about 20 percent of Finland's energy consumption is wood-based. Finland also uses nuclear power to cut its dependence on imported energy. The $5 billion, 1600-watt Olkiluoto 3, scheduled to begin operation in 2011, is expected to provide 15 percent of Finland's electricity. In 2006, Finland reported that greenhouse gas emissions for 2005 were below the levels targeted by the Kyoto Protocol.
SEE ALSO: European Union; Global Warming; Kyoto Protocol; Nuclear Power.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. A.C. Revkin, "Big Arctic Perils Seen in Warming," New York Times (October 30, 2004); World Bank, "Finland," www.worldbank.org (cited November 2007); Yale University, "Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index," www.yale.edu (cited November 2007).
Wylene Rholetter, Ph.D.
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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.