At the beginning of the 21st century, about 80 percent of the world’s energy supply was derived from fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
Fossil-fueled power plants emit air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and toxic chemicals (heavy metals: mercury, chromium, and arsenic), and mobile sources, such as fossil-fueled vehicles, emit nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.
"Exposure to these pollutants can cause heart disease, asthma, and other human health problems."
In contrast, renewable energy sources accounted for nearly 20 percent of global energy consumption at the beginning of the 21st century, largely from traditional uses of biomass such as wood for heating and cooking. By 2015 about 16 percent of the world’s total electricity came from large hydroelectric power plants, whereas other types of renewable energy (such as solar, wind, and geothermal) accounted for 6 percent of total electricity generation. Some energy analysts consider nuclear power to be a form of renewable energy because of its low carbon emissions; nuclear power generated 10.6 percent of the world’s electricity in 2015.
Solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal power can provide energy without the planet-warming effects of fossil fuels.
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