Energy generation is the number one cause of air pollution in North America. Air pollution kills 30,000 people each year and makes hundreds of thousands of others sick. For the past one hundred years, energy generated for electricity and heating/cooling has come from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.
Burning fossil fuels sends greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Climate scientists generally agree that the Earth's average temperature has risen in the past century. If this trend continues, sea levels will rise, and scientists predict that floods, heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather conditions could occur more often.
Other pollutants are released into the air, soil, and water when fossil fuels are burned. These pollutants take a dramatic toll on the environment. Air pollution contributes to lung diseases like asthma. Acid rain from sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides harms plants and fish. Nitrogen oxide contributes to smog.
Despite the proven health and environmental impacts the electricity industry adds millions of metric tons of these pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Nuclear energy has not solved the problem as it creates dangerous waste that remains radioactive for thousands of years. There is still no safe technique for permanently disposing of nuclear waste.