Posted: March 18th, 2023
Fossil fuels comprise coal, natural gas, and oil, which are formed over time from the remains of living organisms. Most of the worldâ€™s energy needs are supplied from fossil fuels but fossil fuels come at a price. Fossil fuels are the main source of global warming emissions in the world. Shindell and Smith (2019) posits “The combustion of fossil fuels produces emissions of the long-lived greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and short-lived pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, that contribute to the formation of atmospheric aerosols.” Not only do fossil fuels contribute towards global warming they also cause health problems, release toxins such as mercury, and destroy our wild places. The overall impact of fossil fuels is far greater when compared to any other source of energy. The world has relied solely on fossil fuels for a pretty long time and this has resulted in people believing there is no alternative. However, with global climates rising each year and climate changes taking place all over the world, people have begun noticing the impact fossil fuels have on our environment. This has resulted in a push for cleaner energy. Fossil fuel combustion is the major contributor to air pollution. Worldwide, fossil fuels account for 82% of primary energy supply and in the United States, fossil fuels account for 81% of all energy supply (Shindell & Smith, 2019). The amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide produced from the combustion of fossil fuels continues to increase as we rely heavily on fossil fuels. If we are to save the environment, we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make the switch towards safe and clean energy like solar and wind.
Health Impacts of Air Pollution
Air pollution is the number one damage caused by fossil fuels. This not only affects the environment but also affects the respiratory systems of all human beings. People living in low and middle-income countries have a huge risk factor associated with air pollution (Perera, 2018). The negative effect of this is the premature death of infants due to toxic air pollutants and climate change. The young are vulnerable to air pollution and climate change since their bodies are developing and they are biologically likely to be highly impacted. Children are more exposed to pollutants than adults as they breathe in more air and require more food than adults based on their weight (Perera, 2018). Children have to bear the brunt of the impacts of air pollution. Children from a low-income background in developing and developed countries suffer the most. These socioeconomic disparities are contributed by the fact that there is a pattern of disproportionate exposure of the poor. For example, in the US studies have indicated that low-income communities experience disproportionately high exposure to particulate air pollution from coal-fired power plants (Perera, 2018). This same pattern is seen when it comes to climate change. It is the poor who in most cases have to live in areas vulnerable to extreme flooding, drought, and other impacts of climate change.
Technology Advancements in Clean Energy
Ending the reliance on fossil fuels will result in the usage of cleaner energy sources. There are better technologies available for replacing fossil fuels. Over the past decade, there have been engineering advances that have assisted in driving down the cost of solar panels and wind turbines (McKibben, April 2020). This means that if we continue pushing for the abolition of fossil fuels, we can get alternative energy sources at even lower prices than fossil fuels. Clean energy is not only cheap to the user but it is also favorable to the environment. Understanding that fossil fuels destroy the environment we should push for the adoption of cleaner energy sources, which are safer to use and will play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions. However, there is an argument that fossil fuels do not contribute as much carbon emission as farming does. Studies have indicated cattle rearing has the same effect on the environment as does fossil fuels. Therefore, as we push for the abolition of fossil fuels, we might not get the benefits we expect as there might be high levels of carbon emission still being produced from ranching. The best method would be to tackle one at a time. There is an alternative to fossil fuel and people have accepted to make use of solar and wind energy. This should be the first step if we are to reduce our carbon footprint. Many energy companies know the impact of their products and they continue to push for the marketing and sale of these products. Knowing quite well they cannot be sued for climate pollution. These companies have pushed for disinformation and they make attempts to divert our attention.
The most profitable companies in the world are fossil fuel corporations. This makes it hard for people to fight them without offering alternative solutions that will guarantee them the same profits and market reach. Fossil fuels are intertwined with capitalism and this goes back to the age of the industrial revolution. Fossil fuel corporations know how hard it is to make use of alternative energy sources to power some of the machines we currently use in the world. For example, how reliable would battery power be to power an Airbus A380 aircraft for a long-distance flight? While strides have been made towards the use of cleaner energy, some areas still need more research and investment if we are to successfully push for the complete elimination of fossil fuels. Energy corporations understand the effect of fossil fuel on the environment and they have protracted battles with environmentalists who attempt to take them to court (Burger & Wentz, 2018). Environmentalists have tried to make the corporations liable to climate damages caused by their products. However, these corporations have successfully managed to have the lawsuits thrown out on the basis the corporations only produce the products. The fossil fuel industry can make the same investment in clean energy and the companies would still manage to make the huge profits they currently make. The reason they fail to do so is mainly based on the huge investments they have currently made in fossil fuel extraction and the knowledge that the world is still dependent on fossil fuels.
The world might be currently dependent on fossil fuels but there is a need for us to divest our energy sources if we are to save the environment. The counterarguments for other causes of environmental pollution do not hold water since in most cases the impact of fossil fuels has been far much greater and it is still the hugest contributor towards climate change, air pollution, and damaging of the environment. There being other clean sources of energy should be push enough to adopt these alternatives as a way for us to heal the environment. Fossil fuels cause air pollution that contributes to respiratory health problems and could result in the premature death of infants. People living in low-income areas and countries are the most vulnerable to air pollution caused by fossil fuels. This is because they cannot afford to live in better areas. Fossil fuel corporations should be pushed to adopt green technologies and gradually move from the production of fossil fuels.
Burger, M., & Wentz, J. (2018). Holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their contribution to climate change: Where does the law stand? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 74(6), 397-403.
McKibben, B. (April 2020). Putting the money squeeze on fossil fuels. Fortune. Retrieved from https://fortune.com/longform/wall-street-fossil-fuels-divest-climate-change/
Perera, F. (2018). Pollution from fossil-fuel combustion is the leading environmental threat to global pediatric health and equity: solutions exist. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(1), 16.
Shindell, D., & Smith, C. J. (2019). Climate and air-quality benefits of a realistic phase-out of fossil fuels. Nature, 573(7774), 408-411.
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