Fossil fuel can be defined in simple words as a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed from the remains of living organisms over millions of years. Because the fossil fuels take a very long time to form, they are considered as non-renewable sources of energy. Coal, oil and natural gas are the three major forms of fossil fuels that are currently the primary sources of energy in the world.
Amongst the gases emitted when fossil fuels are burned, one of the most significant is carbon dioxide, a gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Over the last 150 years, burning fossil fuels has resulted in more than a 25 percent increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Many of the environmental problems the world faces today – including climate change, air pollution, oil spills, and acid rain – result from our dependence on fossil fuels. Burning of fossil fuels produces heat-trapping gases that are the main cause of ongoing rise in global atmospheric temperatures.
Our earth is surrounded by a layer of green house gases, which helps in maintaining favorable conditions on the earth. This layer acts like a blanket, keeping the earth warm and shielding it from cold of universe. This is commonly referred to as the greenhouse effect. When fossil fuels- coal, oil and natural gas are burnt, they release CO2 gas in the atmosphere. Because of this the layer of greenhouse gas is getting thicker, which is in turn is making the Earth warmer. Thus this ongoing unlimited burning of fossil fuels is a major cause of climate change.
Biggest climate polluter is the global power sector which generates around 40% of all global electricity from coal. According to the International Energy Agency power sector is responsible for 37% of all man-made Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions. It creates about 23 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – in excess of 700 tonnes a second. In turn, this CO2 continues to heat up our planet which poses an unprecedented threat to us and the environment.
Generating electricity through burning of fossil fuels, in particular carbon-heavy coal has a greater impact on the atmosphere than any other single human activity. Coal is carbon-rich of all fossil fuels and burning it generates 70% more carbon dioxide (CO2) than natural gas for every unit of energy produced. More than a third of all global electricity is generated from coal – it is the power sector’s single biggest source of energy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 79 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. Nitrogen oxides are also released into atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned; this contributes to the formation of smog and acid rain. Acid rain causes buildings, statues, and monuments to deteriorate. It also has adverse effects on the land and water resources. Likewise, during mining and drilling, oil spills and pipeline ruptures have lead to major disasters that harm the environment and take years to clean up. During that time, tens of thousands of gallons of fossil fuel liquids could spill into the ecosystem and harm plants and animals lives by poisoning water and food supplies. This may also prove to be a great threat for human beings.
Our lives are connected to the climate and even small changes on the climatic system can greatly impact our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.
So, are we still ready to invest in fossil fuels?