Fossil fuels is a generic term for fuels that come from dead organic material. That is why it is called fossil, which basically means the remains of a dead plant or animal. Today, these fossils are used as fuel. The most common examples are oil, gas and coal. Together, they are the biggest contributors to global warming and climate change. This is because the burning of fossil fuels – which is done to produce heat and thereby energy – releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. Too much of these gases contributes to a strong greenhouse effect, which results in a warmer climate.
What are fossil fuels?
As mentioned, fossil fuels are the remains of dead plants and animals, in other words prehistoric organic material. They have been stored at the bottom of oceans, seas and lakes for millions of years. Creating a process that results in coal, oil and natural gas. The process includes pressure and high temperatures that compress the material to for instance oil.
New fossil fuels are always created. Although the process take millions of years. Since humans consume fossil fuels at an unimaginable fast rate, the current resources are becoming scarce. In other words, humans are consuming fossil fuels at a higher rate than they are produced by nature. Furthermore, the burning of these fuels contributes to the greenhouse effect. This is the largest issue with the fuels.
For instance, the burning releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This particular gas is very good at absorbing the heat from the sun. More so, almost half of the carbon dioxide that is released, stays in the atmosphere for over 1000 years. The burning also releases other emissions such as soot and harmful gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. These harmful gases are sometimes part of the smog one can see in the pollution of big cities. They are toxic to humans and most other life on earth.
The fossil fuels range from bad to very bad. For instance natural gas, has the potential to be a relatively clean fossil fuel as it does not release sulphur dioxide and other harmful particles. However, burning natural gas also releases methane. This gas is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. In fact, it can absorb the heat from the sun much better than carbon dioxide. Other examples are oil, that has the benefit of being an extremely concentrated kind of energy. Furthermore, it comes in a liquid form, which makes it easy to transport and conserve. However, the extraction of oil is becoming increasingly more complicated as well as expensive. The resource has been heavily abused across the world. In conclusion, all the negative effects of fossil fuels points to the fact that we need a transition to renewable energies.