Environmental Issues of Future – UPSC GS3

What are the new threats for the environment?
  • Giant data centres:
    • As the world gets increasingly digitised, data centres and server farms are proliferating, that consume energy and generate heat.
    • Millions of litres of water are often required to keep them cool, particularly if the data centres are not set up in extremely cold regions.
    • Many regions where big data centres are located are already water stressed and their problems could get worse.
  • The carbon footprint of solar:
    • The sharp fall in prices of solar panels has played a role in the popularity of solar power.
    • But, most of the world’s cheap solar panels come from China where companies have largely depended on thermal power for manufacturing solar panels.
    • Producing solar panels using cleaner energy sources also increases their costs, thus creating a dilemma for policy makers.
  • The recycling problem:
    • The recycling issue of discarded solar panels, wind turbines and an increasing mountain of electronic waste is a major issue.
    • The average lifespan of a solar panel is 25 years, but their efficiency starts declining much earlier. Quite often they are replaced after a decade and a half. This was not a problem a decade ago when solar panels were not being installed at such a rapid pace. Over the next decade, it will become a major headache for all countries that have installed large solar power farms.
    • Earlier, rich countries would send their e-wastes to poorer countries but now increasingly the latter are declining to become dump yards for e-waste
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