It takes millions of years for fossil fuels to form from organic materials of the earth. Today, the fossil fuels including coal, natural gas, and oil are the primary source of energy in the world. All these fossil fuels have been used over the past few decades by several countries for their economic development.
However, their continued use would result in irreparable damages to the earth’s environment. Technologies of recent times might be able to reduce these impacts to some extent, but not totally. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that we understand the effects of fossil fuels on our planet. Given below are some of them:
1. Rise in global warming
The continued use of fossil fuels will increase the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. This will result in a rise in the levels of heat and temperature on the earth’s surface. It happens due to the trapping of heat obtained from sunlight by carbon dioxide. This prevents the heat from dissipating out of the atmosphere. It is also known as the greenhouse effect.
Since fossil fuels comprise hydrogen and carbon, the burning of fossil fuels releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. With a rise in its quantity in the air, the amount of heat trapped by the gas also increases. This results in an overall rise in the earth’s temperature, which is popularly known as global warming.
2. Acid rains
Certain harmful compounds like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide is released by the burning of fossil fuels. These dangerous compounds rise high into the atmosphere and react with oxygen, water, and other chemicals. This leads to the formation of acidic air pollutants.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can easily dissolve in water vapors. They are then carried quite far by the wind and come down to the earth as acid rains. There are many ways through which sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the atmosphere. Some of them include emissions from cars, trucks, and buses.
3. Pollution of water through oil spills
Global transportation of petroleum or crude oil is done mainly through the oceans using ships. Tankers are used in this process to carry such materials. Any leakage in these tankers can cause the oil to spill into the oceans.
This can cause some serious problems for the marine life flourishing in them. Many species of marine beings would be threatened by such oil spills. Besides threatening the existence of marine life, the oil spills can also cause water pollution. The extent of water pollution would depend upon the quantity of oil spills.
4. Threat to human health
There are many industries operating in different corners of the globe that need energy for production. The source of this energy is mainly the fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, oil, and gasoline. Such industries, therefore, contribute to the air pollution to a great extent.
Harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, mercury, and sulfur dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Coal and petroleum are responsible for the release of unburnt particles into the environment. This can lead to some serious health problems in humans, such as lung damage and respiratory diseases.