By Marlowe Hood
14 January 2019
(Phys.org) – In a world where climate change, air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, ozone depletion, and other environmental problems overlap, a fix in one arena can cause trouble in another.
Here are a few examples of what might be called Earth’s “zero-sum” dilemma in the 21st century.
Water vs. ocean pollution
A study released Monday shows for the first time that more than 16,000 desalination plants scattered across the globe produce more briny toxic sludge than fresh water.
For every litre of fresh water extracted, a litre-and-a-half of salty, chemical-laden sludge called brine is dumped—in most cases—into the ocean.
That’s enough to cover the state of Florida in a 30-centimetre (one-foot) layer of slime.
“Desalination technology has benefited a large number of people,” said co-author Manzoor Qadir, a researcher at the UN University. “But we cannot ignore the production of brine, which is going to become an even greater problem in the future.” […]Wind farms vs. biodiversity
But wind farms are also bird killers: up to 328,000 birds—especially those that fly at night—are felled every year by fast-spinning blades in the United States alone, where there are some 50,000 turbines.
They also disrupt ecosystems. A scientific study of wind farms in the Western Ghats, a UNESCO-listed range of mountains and forest spanning India’s west coast, found that predatory raptor birds were four times rarer than in adjacent areas.
Their absence cascaded down the food chain and radically altered the density and behaviour of the birds’ prey. There was, in particular, an explosion in the raptors’ favourite meal: fan-throated lizards. Solar panels vs. ground pollution
Photovoltaic solar panels—which absorb sunlight to generate electricity—have a dirty little secret, according to French investigative journalist Guillaume Pitron.
The fastest growing renewable energy source includes critical metals and minerals that require a lot of energy to extract and often leave a trail of environmental devastation in their wake.
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