Humans rely on sunshine (and stored energy), too. Humans are a part of—not apart from— Earth’s ecosystems. Humans influence energy flow and are modifying the energy balance of Earth’s ecosystems at an increasing rate.
Changes in the availability of energy affect ecosystems. The amount and kind of energy available limits the distribution and abundance of organisms in an ecosystem and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials. When humans modify the energy balance, we impact the ability of the ecosystems to react and adapt to variability in the environment.
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Our energy choices and decisions impact the Earth’s natural systems in ways we may not be aware of, so it is essential that we that we choose our energy sources carefully.
Conserve resources - energy, water, food, and materials - whenever possible. All resources are part of Earth’s energy balance.
Keeping Up with Carbon
Carbon forms living organisms, dissolves in the ocean, mixes in the atmosphere, and is stored in the crust of the planet. The ocean plays a critical role in the carbon cycle and is key to understanding Earth's changing climate.
Video Length: 5:39 min.
Shrinking Ice, Rising Seas
Sea level rise is an indicator that our planet is warming. When ice on land, such as mountain glaciers or the ice sheets of Greenland or Antarctica, melts, that water contributes to sea level rise.
Climate Change and Particles in the Air
Aerosols are small particles suspended in the air. Glory's Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor instrument will help researchers understand the properties, global distribution, and chemical composition of natural and anthropogenic aerosols and clouds.
Climate Change and the Global Ocean
One of the best ways to understand Earth's ocean is from the perspective of space. NASA’s Earth observing satellites gather data, including ocean surface temperature, surface winds, sea level, circulation, and marine life.
Energy Issues—Environmental Impacts: Switch Energy Project
Energy drives the modern world and underpins every other issue.
We choose our energy based on four attributes: affordable, available, reliable and clean. But defining clean is complicated. All energies have environmental impacts that need to be managed effectively and affordably. Even so, the biggest challenge of energy is scale—the enormous amount of energy we demand. And the only way to counter scale, is with efficiency.
Hydropower: Switch Energy Project
Hydropower can be an always-on, baseload power, or spin up almost instantly to follow rising electricity demand—with no fuel to burn and no emissions. Building the power plants is high impact and expensive, but they produce cheap electricity for many decades. Hydropower is so good, we’ve used up almost all the locations for it. The few large-scale projects in the future will be in China, India, Africa, and other developing areas.
Oil: Switch Energy Project
Oil goes into myriad products that have transformed our modern world, but none so much as gasoline and diesel. They provide a level of mobility for people and products never before known, creating the first global economy, which is now so dependent on oil that price shocks have global impacts. A wise economic response is to diversify into other transport fuels. This could also bring environmental and political benefits.