Fossil fuels are hydrocarbon-containing substances of biological origin. They are useful for energy production. They include petroleum, coal, natural gas, oil shales, bitumens, tar sands, and heavy oils. These substances contain carbon, and are formed by geologic processes. In the Archean eon, plants and animals began to produce energy and store carbon dioxide. However, as fossil fuels were buried in the Earth’s crust, they began to emit carbon dioxide in such a way that they inhibited the carbon cycle from functioning properly.
The carbon dioxide that is released by the combustion of fossil fuels contributes to global warming. It accumulates in the atmosphere and dissolves in oceans. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually leads to ocean acidification. The global carbon project has mapped the rise in CO2 over the past 150 years. Fossil fuel combustion releases sulfuric and nitric acids that impact the built environment and natural areas. For example, monuments made of limestone and marble are especially susceptible to the impact of acid rain.
The main source of global warming emissions, fossil fuels have become the main source of energy consumption in the world. As one of the most pressing existential issues facing mankind, understanding how these fuels affect our climate is essential for making informed choices about how to generate energy in the future. Understanding the effects of fossil fuels will help us make energy decisions that are more environmentally responsible, and we can avoid the worst consequences of global warming. So, how do we avoid fossil fuels?
The governments provide billions of dollars in subsidies to the production of fossil fuels. While the exact number varies, the subsidization amounts remain in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Greater transparency of these costs could allow us to get a more accurate estimate of the true costs of fossil fuels. The International Monetary Fund has estimated the unpaid costs of fossil fuels at $5.3 trillion annually, which works out to about $10 million per minute.
In today’s world, oil resources are not as widespread as coal, but they have crucial advantages. Oil fuels are energy-dense, with roughly twice the energy content of coal. They are also liquid, which makes them suitable for internal combustion engines. The energy density of fossil fuels is higher than other sources of energy. In addition to providing energy, fossil fuels also contribute to the development of technology. One of the primary advantages of fossil fuels is that they can be easily ramped up and down to meet demand.
Coal was developed about 300 million years ago. Back then, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Plants in bogs and swamps partly decayed and subsequently transformed into peat. As the climate changed, other materials settled on top of peat. Eventually, heat and pressure changed peat to coal. The result is that coal is only accessible through the digging process. But the burning of coal has caused huge health problems in many developing countries, including India and China.