6C – Fossil fuels & global warming

Supporting article C: Coal, oil and natural gas:How does the burning of Fossil fuels contribute to global warming


Fossil Fuels and Global Warming
Fossil fuels and global warming are closely associated with each other. This is because the phenomena of global warming is caused mainly due to excessive use of fuels. Read on to know more…

Coal, oil and natural gas are the three different forms of fossil fuels that are widely used. They are formed by the process of anaerobic decomposition of organic matter under the surface of the earth for millions of years. Large scale use of fossil fuels started since industrial revolution. Today, they are the most cheap sources of energy available for the use of both personal as well as commercial purposes. Petroleum is used to fuel our vehicles while coal and natural gas are used to produce electricity for our homes and offices. Statistics show that almost three-fourth of the demands of the energy in the world is fulfilled by fossil fuels. Let us find out the relationship between fossil fuels and global warming.

How does Burning Fossil Fuels Contribute to Global Warming?

The main function of the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere is to trap the heat obtained from sunlight and do not let it go beyond the atmosphere. It is because of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that our planet is warmer than any other planet of the solar system. When there is a rise in the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air, the amount of heat captured by the carbon dioxide also increases. This in turn contributes towards overall rise in the surface temperature of the earth which is also known as global warming.

On burning of fossil fuels, various types of gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc., are released. A significant proportion of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is by burning of the fossil fuels. Evidence obtained from various research studies suggest that since the middle of the nineteenth century, there have been at least 25 percent increase in the carbon dioxide content in the atmospheric air. This is all because of extensive use of fossil fuels across the globe. As a result, in the last 150 years, the temperature of the earth has already increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. Moreover, it is going to increase further in the next hundred years. hus our planet will be much more hotter in the next century.

This will have a severe effect on the climate of the earth. The weather conditions of various places of the earth will change drastically. Droughts and floods will occur more frequently in many inland areas that have extreme weather condition which will badly affect the agriculture. All the glaciers of the earth will be melting at a much faster pace. As a result, the areas nearby the water bodies like the coastal regions and the banks of the river will get submerged under water. Many deltas, islands, thickly populated cities are likely to go under water. Thus you can see that the issues of fossil fuels and global warming and climate change are all interwoven with each other.

Fossil Fuels and the Environment

Combustion of fossil fuels not only gives out carbon dioxide into the air, it also releases many other harmful acidic substances like sulfuric acid and carbonic acid and cause air pollution. When in air, these gases undergoes some chemical changes and return to the surface of the earth in the form of acid rain. This has a huge impact on the entire environment. It affects soil and plant life and causes water pollution. Large areas of land surfaces are dug up for the purpose of extraction of fossil fuels from their deposits under the earth. After the removal, this land becomes unusable and thus causes a permanent damage to the land and causes frequent earthquakes. Fossil fuels are transported from one place to another by tankers and ships. Any leakage in these tankers causes oil spills. Such type of accidents have occurred a number of times in the past. This not only leads to water pollution but also poses a serious threat to marine lives.

Hope you have understood the relation between fossil fuels and global warming. We all have a role to play in controlling global warming. If we take some small measures from our side, then we can save our planet from disaster. For this, we have to reduce our huge demand for energy. We have to decrease energy consumption in our homes, use our vehicles only for traveling short distances. We also have to stop cutting trees and plant more number of trees because they can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus check its level from rising.

By Bidisha Mukherjee