Mitigating GHG emissions will require significant changes in technologies and practices on a broad scale over a long term, particularly in energy production and use, from current conditions. These new technologies, practices, and behaviors will change how our activities ultimately impact the environmental. Although many of the changes will be beneficial (even beyond reductions in GHG emissions), we must be aware of the adverse impacts that will also occur and be prepared to minimize those impacts to the extent possible. A summary of the impacts discussed above are shown in Table 12.4. A level of research need (high, medium, low) for each of the topics listed in the table has been assigned by the chapter authors and book editor, and reflect our judgment of the relative importance of each topic.
Table 12.4 Summary of potential environmental impacts associated with GHG mitigation technologies
Residential and commercial energy efficiency
(coal) Carbon sequestration Nuclear power Increased natural gas use Wind power
Geothermal power Electric vehicles
Space cooling, refrigeration Building shell improvements
Waste to energy
Lower generating efficiencies lead to higher fuel use and increased generation of effluents; High water consumption; increased impacts of coal mining
Risks associated with groundwater contamination; long-term or acute accidental CO, release; High impacts to local and underground ecosystems; potential seismic impacts
Nuclear waste management Medium
Increased release of CH4; impacts of drilling, processing, and transport operations Medium
Impacts to land cover and habitat due to wind turbine footprint and increased power lines; noise; Low appearance issues
Increased semiconductor production and potential Cd and Te releases over life cycle; impacts to land Medium cover and habitat due to PV panel footprint and increased power lines Impacts to land cover and habitat due to increased harvesting; increased use of fertilizer and High pesticides and runoff to water, water consumption; increased transportation, harvesting, and conversion emissions; emissions from storage of harvested feedstocks Effluents of waste water and solids; H,S and Hg emissions; ground subsidence; water contamination Low Increased electricity consumption (see above impacts); life cycle impacts of battery production Medium and storage (concern about Ni, Li, Pb emissions) Same issues as biomass power, use of genetically modified materials in feedstocks and conversion High processes; biofuel spills and leakage into groundwater; increased organic emissions from vehicles Life cycle GHG emissions due to production from primary energy sources; increased Pt mining Low to meet fuel cell needs; construction of H, production, distribution, and storage infrastructure; potential damage to stratospheric ozone layer
Hg from CFL disposal; increased emissions from semiconductor production for LED lighting Medium systems (As, In, P)
Fugitive emissions of refrigerants with high GWP100; toxicity of ammonia as replacement refrigerant Medium
Increased construction and demolition debris disposal; potential for increased indoor exposure Low to organic compounds
Under each of these topics, it is possible that there are more detailed issues that should be considered more or less important relative to the overall rating.
It is equally crucial to clearly communicate these impacts to decision makers, stakeholders, and the general public. Because there will be adverse impacts of varying degrees related to nearly all GHG mitigation strategies, it is critical to recognize and communicate that there are no zero-impact answers, only approaches that have fewer or greater impacts and risks. Public and advocacy group resistance has been noted for wind power, increased power lines needed to connect renewable energy sources, nuclear energy, biofuels, and waste to energy plants. These approaches will all be needed to effectively mitigate GHG emissions. An effective communications strategy that clearly addresses concerns and identifies the relative risks associated with adopting these approaches (or not adopting them) is a critical need for long-term success of any large-scale GHG mitigation strategy.
This discussion does not endeavor to list all the adverse environmental consequences associated with climate mitigation strategies, and it does not provide a comprehensive analysis of those presented. Indeed, each of these issues would be a topic suitable for a more complete review of the state of the science. It is certain that there will be environmental consequences associated with the evolving mitigation responses that we will not, and perhaps could not, have predicted. It is even likely that a number of the technologies that will ultimately play key roles in mitigating GHG emissions have not yet been developed and are not being anticipated. Whether anticipated or not, the ancillary adverse environmental impacts are likely to act on much shorter time scales than climate change. Coupled with the fact that strategies that successfully mitigate climate change will, at best, result in changes in climate that are only slightly worse than present, it is likely that one of the most visible impacts of GHG mitigation strategies will be the adverse impacts discussed above. Thus, it is imperative to remain alert to these impacts and proactively identify and publicize both the impacts and approaches to minimize them.
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