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Our (human) carbon footprint is determined by our conveniences. The conveniences we enjoy are determined by our status in society and our achieved standards of living. There is only a certain extent to which we would not want to enjoy our accomplishments. No one wants to make their own butter if they don’t have to.
Take for example the sought-after transition to solar energy. Solar energy is, no doubt, a result of our industriousness. We have come up with a way to collect energy from the sun and produce electricity. How convenient! But the manufacture of solar panels comes with it’s own carbon footprint (also see here for a comparison of all forms of renewable electricity production). If we didn’t want the convenience of electricity, there would be no need to create this carbon footprint, or any additional carbon footprint at all.
Who, and what, decides: Where do we draw the line? The use of coal to generate electricity does have a larger carbon footprint compared to the equivalent in solar panels. See references above. However, carbon capture technology could bring the coal footprint down to within the same order of magnitude as solar’s. Coal has other advantages however, as in being plentiful and in being a human resource that shouldn’t be demonized, along with any other fossil fuels. See Here. In fact, fossil fuels or their components are used to manufacture solar panels and turbines.
We will continue to use electricity; to charge our batteries; that we develop to replace the use of fossil fuels. The use of batteries also has it’s own carbon footprint. To completely replace coal and the use of fossil fuels, all the things we manufacture to produce electricity in their place, also have carbon footprints.
The resources we utilize (as in oil, gas, and coal) however also have their own conveniences. They are both plentiful and necessarily utilized for the value they provide. Seas of coal and oil are useful for no other purpose. They were put here to be managed for our use.
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