Burning fossil fuels produces heat energy that is used to generate electricity, power vehicles, and warm our homes. But burning these fuels causes the emission of carbon dioxide, which makes up 65% of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The more fossil fuels we burn, the more heat-trapping gases we produce. So, it’s really scary that In 2016, our planet had the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 3 million years.
Fossil fuels are often harvested through mining practices that cause major disturbances in surrounding ecosystems. Underground mining tunnels can cause a disturbance in the flow of waterways when surfaces above collapse or wilt, posing a threat to dependant life-forms when their natural source of water is diverted. Miners can use alternative methods that occur above-ground, like stripping top layers of soil and rock to access coal beneath. However, the removal process can lead to blockages in nearby valleys and streams, causing an increase in mudslides, landslides, and flash-floods. During extraction processes, toxic substances such as heavy metals and radioactive materials are released and can pollute nearby waterways. Now that’s spooky!
When burning fuel emits greenhouse gases, pollutants react to sunlight and its heat to create smog. Smog dangerously impacts human health, as low air quality can cause irritation of the eyes, chest pain, and even pulmonary disease. Exposure to smog can put children, the elderly, and those who suffer from cardiac or respiratory conditions at a higher risk of complications caused by pollution. Health professionals tell us that thousands of deaths can be avoided each year by reducing smog.
Acid rain forms as a result of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that are transported by air currents and react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form acids that mix with water. Acid can fall to the ground in the form of rain, snow, fog, or hail. When introduced to an ecosystem, acid rainwater can devastate entire populations of fish and shellfish. Acid causes a rapid decline in the PH levels that wild-life need to survive, making entire bodies of water incapable of supporting life.
Fossil fuels take three different forms – oil, coal, and natural gas. All three fossil fuels are the product of buried plants and animal remains that decomposed over the course of several hundred million years. Today, the world consumes the equivalent of over 11 billion tons of oil in fossil fuels every year. With a continuously growing population, oil reserves could be depleted by 2052 if we cannot slow consumption. If available fossil fuels are reduced to only natural gas and coal, existing fossil fuel reserves could disappear altogether by 2088!