Save the World!

Environment Case Study/Business Game

 

The following case study can be done individually or as a group exercise.

PDF Version of the Save the World Environment Case Study You are welcome to print the case study out for use with your own students provided that the copyright message on each page is not removed (for non-commercial purposes only).

The leading industrial nations have finally decided to take action to stop global warming. They have set up a committee which has been given just one hour to come up with a strategy to greatly reduce global warming over the next 30 years without having a pronounced negative effect on world economies! You have to say what mix of the following methods you would use and justify your recommendations.

You have been asked to take the following factors into account when deciding your strategy.

 

Non-renewable energy sources

These are sources which will be used up and can't then be used again.

SOLUTION POSITIVES NEGATIVES  
Nuclear power
(about 7% of global energy use)
  • No carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming.
  • Large scale solution: can easily build lots of power stations
  • Cost and rate of use of fuel is low.
  • Can be located in areas of low population
  • Can flexibly meet demand.
  • Heavily subsidised by most Governments
  • Uranium supplies will run out in about 50 years.
  • Massive long term clean up costs to decommission the power stations.
  • Expensive long term storage costs: the waste can remain radioactive for thousands of years.
  • Possibilities of radiation leaks or terrorist attacks
Environment game
Coal
(about 23% of global energy use)
  • Relatively cheap and easy to get.
  • Easy to transport to power stations.
  • Power stations are flexible in meeting demand and start up quickly.
  • Enough coal available for over a hundred years.
  • Sulphur can be removed by cleaning but this adds to the cost.
  • India, China and US already have large expansion plans for coal power
  • Produces 80% more carbon dioxide than gas and 30% more than oil which causes global warming via the Greenhouse Effect.
  • Produces sulphur dioxide which causes acid rain.
  • Coal power stations are only about 33% efficient (although this is slowly improving)
  • Mining methods can be very destructive.

 

Coal Power
Oil
(about 36% of global energy use)
  • Relatively easy to find.
  • Quicker start up than nuclear and coal-fired power stations
  • Enough oil available for forty years.
  • Sulphur can be removed by cleaning but this adds to the cost.
  • Price fluctuates greatly
  • Produces 38% more carbon dioxide than gas (although less than coal) which causes global warming via the Greenhouse effect.
  • Produces sulphur dioxide which causes acid rain.
  • Often transported on tankers which frequently cause pollution due to oil spills.

 

Oil Rig
Gas
(about 21% of global energy use)
  • Relatively easy to find.
  • Quicker start up than nuclear, oil and coal-fired power stations so flexible in meeting demand.
  • Enough available for forty years.
  • Sulphur can be removed by cleaning but this adds to the cost.
  • Doesn't produce sulphur dioxide
  • Requires expensive pipelines to transport it to where it will be needed.
  • Produces carbon dioxide(although much less than oil or coal) which causes global warming via the Greenhouse effect.
  • Price fluctuates greatly as tied to price of oil.

 

Gas Power

Renewable energy sources

These don't run out as they are always being replaced as they are ultimately being powered by the sun (wind farms, solar and hydro-electric power) or moon (wave power).

Hydro-electricity
(about 2% of global energy use)
  • No carbon or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming
  • A clean solution
  • No fuel needed
  • Quick start up
  • Produce lots of reliable energy
  • Can pump water into a high reservoir to store electricity
  • Only feasible in mountainous areas so can only make a limited contribution.
  • Dams are expensive to build.
  • Dams may flood valleys and severely damage the environment: river valleys are often fertile and densely populated.
Hydro- electric power
Wind Farms
(less than 1% of global energy use at present)
  • No carbon or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming
  • A clean solution
  • No fuel needed: free energy
  • Low maintenance
  • Onshore wind energy costs about 3 pence per kwh whereas offshore costs 5 p per kwh.
  • Output depends entirely on wind speed: no wind, no power!
  • Still need conventional power stations for when there is no wind.
  • Can only make a limited contribution due to lack of suitable sites
  • Harm seabirds which fly into their turbine blades
  • Can look unsightly.
  • Need lots of them as only small amount of energy produced by each, so high building costs
Environmental game
Wave power
(less than 1% of global energy use)
  • No carbon or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming
  • A clean solution
  • No fuel needed: free energy
  • Can only make a limited contribution due to lack of suitable sites and low power output.
  • Output depends on wave energy
  • Costs a lot to build as need a lot to generate a reasonable amount of power.
  • High maintenance costs due to storm damage and corrosion by seawater
Wave Power
Tidal Power (less than 1% of global energy use)
  • No carbon or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming
  • A clean solution
  • No fuel needed: free energy
  • Barrage water can be released when demand is high.
  • Can destroy estuarine and other environments as you need to build a dam and be a hazard for ships.
  • Looks unsightly
  • Output not high and depends on strength of tide which varies.
  • Tides only occur twice a day, so can only produce energy at these times.
  • Costs a lot to build.
  • Not many suitable sites.
Tidal Power
Solar Power
(less than 1% of global energy use)
  • No carbon or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming
  • A clean solution
  • No fuel needed: free energy
  • Quite expensive to build solar power stations.
  • Only really be effective in equatorial countries which don't have much cloud.
  • Not particularly efficient.
Solar Power
Biofuels/biomass
(about 11% of global energy use). This is biological material such as palm oil that can be used as fuel or for industrial production.
  • reduces carbon emissions
  • Some biomass is a waste product of producing foods
  • Uses a renewable fuel.
  • uses large areas of agricultural land
  • raises food prices
  • destroys rainforest
  • can still contribute to global warming via deforestation
Palm Oil
Fusion power
  • No carbon or sulphur dioxide emissions so doesn't contribute to global warming
  • A clean solution
  • Unlimited supplies of fuel from seawater
  • Long term solution - if it works at all. May take 30 or more years to produce any results.
  • Massively expensive
Fusion Power

Other methods of reducing global warming

Reduce car, aeroplane and ship emissions
  • Simple to implement by using better technology (more fuel efficient cars and aircraft)
  • may affect world economy
  • unpopular with voters

Car

Improved energy efficiency.
Better house insulation
(lofts, cavity walls, low energy light bulbs).
Improved efficiency for appliances such as dishwashers.
  • cheap and easy to implement
  • Not so useful in hot countries
Low Energy Light Bulb

Protecting forests.
Buying rainforest and other endangered land to protect it from development

  • Prevents the cutting and burning of forests which releases carbon dioxide. Tropical deforestation produces about 20% of human carbon dioxide emissions each year.
  • May be difficult to get developing countries to take action on illegal logging and land clearance.
Rain Forest
Carbon sequestration
(storing carbon dioxide gas deep underground)
  • Could capture the carbon at the power plant and store underground
  • Still under development so environmental impact not fully explored.
  • Would add to costs of power stations.
Sequestration

 

SOLUTION

Of course there are many possible solutions you could put forward to this exercise; many combinations could be persuasively argued for, and the final solution you choose is not important. You would be assessed on how logically and eloquently you made your case for whichever scheme you decided to support. Instead of writing your findings you might be asked to give a short presentation of your case in front of an audience. This would test your public speaking skills and ability to present an argument. This type of exercise might also be given in the form of a group exercise.

Having said this there are a number of fundamental points which could be made.

PDF Version of the Save the World Environment Case Study You are welcome to print the case study out for use with your own students provided that the copyright message on each page is not removed (for non-commercial purposes only).