Tikrit University
College of Education for Women
Department of Chemistry
The Biggest Problem Facing the
World in the 21st century
A Scientific Essay
 The Biggest Problem Facing the World in the 21st century
By Dr. Saddam M. Al-Mahmoud
The need to find new sources of energy is one of the biggest problems facing the
world today. Energy sources can be classified into two types; the first type is known as
renewable energy or alternative energy, for example biomass, geothermal energy,
hydropower, solar energy, and wind energy. These are called renewable energy sources,
because they can be replenished in a short time. The other sources are non-renewable or
conventional energy sources, such as coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy, which are
being depleted because they cannot be made again or replaced again in a short period of
time. This essay will examine the most important problems related to energy sources, the
environmental impacts resulting from use of these sources, and consider some solutions
to reduce these problems.
The first problem is the depletion of conventional energy sources. Chow, Kopp and
Portney (2003) states ‘Between 1980 and 2001, worldwide consumption of petroleum,
coal, and natural gas increased by 22, 27, and 71%, respectively’. This means that global
demand for these conventional sources has increased, and this will greatly affect the rate
of depletion of these sources, unless new fields are discovered through exploration during
this time.
The increase in the price of conventional energy sources is another important problem.
This increase can be attributed to the very high population density in the world, and the
enormous development in industrial sectors. The present civilization depends on fossil
fuels on a large scale, and demand for energy will be very significant in the future ‘World
energy demand is expected to increase by 50 per cent by 2030’ (Hoyos, 2006). Moreover,
renewable energy will not be able to meet the demand for energy alone. Increasing
depletion rates and the high demand for conventional sources is likely to result in a
significant increase in the prices of these sources in the future.
In addition to these problems, there are many influences that cause damage to the
environment. McMullan, Morgan and Murray (1983) explained that there are threefactors affecting the environment which are caused by human activities. Firstly, the
emission of carbon dioxide gas from burning fossil fuels in power plants, secondly, the
emission of water vapor from cooling towers at these stations, thirdly, heat release
resulting from the production or consumption of energy. All these environmental impacts
arising from airborne emissions have the potential contribution to global warming.
Although nuclear energy does not contribute to air pollution directly, but it suffers from
the problem of highly toxic nuclear waste and the appropriate procedures to get rid of
them, which are dangerous to humans and the environment, Since the danger of nuclear
waste in its continued radiation for a long time and failure to ensure resistance to storage
areas throughout This period. All these problems require a search for real solutions to
avoid or at least reduce them.
The first solution, which can be considered to solve these problems is reduce
consumption of fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some states contributed
to apply this solution through their participation in the Kyoto Protocol in Japan (1998),
most heads of states participating agreed to reduce the production of carbon dioxide in
the coming years to avoid major threats of climate change due to pollution resulting from
burning fossil fuels.
Also, the concern about the environmental impacts resulting from the use of
conventional energy sources, necessitates the search for alternatives to fossil fuels.
However, the current global use of renewable sources of energy is very limited and does
not exceed 8% of the total resources as one study indicated by U.S. Energy Information
Administration (2010), it is one of the best alternatives suggested for the traditional
sources. For example, the sun's energy is the main source of energy in the planet, and it is
the primary source of all other forms of energy. Although, the Earth receive a large
amount of solar energy everyday, only a small amount of that is being exploited
effectively. The development of new technologies that can convert a larger amount of the
sunlight into energy is the key to solving the energy problem, and will be the most
important part of the replacement of fossil fuels in the future. Also, other alternative
sources of energy such as biomass, wind energy and hydropower, are currently efforts to
develop appropriate technology to use them effectively.Despite the fact that alternative sources of energy are not free of pollution in general,
there is a wide range of options that produce less environmental damage than
conventional energy sources. Although there are many difficulties that prevent the spread
of renewable energies more broadly, such as the high cost of investment, nearly 65
countries working to develop and encourage investment in renewable energy sources
(Renewables Global Status Report 2007).
In conclusion, the depletion of conventional energy sources and environmental
pollution resulting from burning fossil fuels, the high prices of energy and the subsequent
economic problems, are the most important problems the world faces today. Solving
these problems requires urgent attention from governments to the development of
specific technologies which are able to use available resources efficiently, reduce
consumption of fossil fuels, and greater dependence on renewable energy sources.
Chow, J, Kopp, RJ & Portney, PR 2003, ‘Energy Resources and Global Development’,
Science Magazine, vol. 302, p.1529, accessed 17 March 2011,
Hoyos, C 2006, ‘An Unsustainable Outlook’, Financial Time, accessed 22 March 2011,
McMullan, JT, Morgan, R & Murray, RB 1983, Energy Resources, 2nd Ed, Edward
Arnold Ltd, London, England.
Renewables Global Status Report 2007, Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st
Century, accessed 24 March 2011,
Kyoto Protocol 1998, Kyoto Protocol to The United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change, United Nations, accessed 6 March 2011,
U.S. Energy Information Administration 2010, Annual Energy Review 2009, Washington,
DC, accessed 17 March 2011  

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