We all use fossil fuels in some way or another, there’s no denying it. It may be in the form of petrol for our cars, gas for our homes or even coal for our electricity company, but the real cost of using such fuels is far from paying a bunch of utility bills. The harmful effects of using fossil fuels are virtually limitless, which not only affects us but also our environment, and more importantly, our future.
One of the most obvious harms of fossil fuels is the increased global warming. Due to an alarming rate of increase in carbon dioxide, larger amounts of heat entering the atmosphere get trapped with no way of getting out, causing what is called a greenhouse effect. This in turn is melting ice caps, increasing floods as well as droughts, and causing a major increase in the Earth’s overall temperature with every passing year.
Harmful waste water
Whenever fossil fuels are extracted from earth (such as drilling from coal mines), the water trapped below the surface is also extracted along with it. But that’s a good thing, right? Wrong! This water is not healthy by any means. In fact, the amount of harmful minerals such as heavy metals and bacteria is so great that it may be compared to the industrial waste dumped by factories. The water is washed down into streams and oceans causing major disturbance to the entire marine environment.
Sea levels rise
A direct result of global warming, rising temperatures around the world mean melting of the ice caps. As more ice becomes water, more water gets deposited in the oceans, and with that the level of water rises. Coastal regions are now endangered of being submerged under water, and with many islands already gone half below the water’s surface, it won’t be a surprise if we see entire colonies being drowned if we don’t change to a greener lifestyle.
With the increase in the number of vehicles running on fossil fuels in the past 100 years, there has been a major shift in the quality of air in our environment. Once considered clean, the air has now become contaminated with so many pollutants that we can barely count. Although there has been effort made to reduce the number of vehicle emissions by various regulatory authorities across multiple countries, a major part of Asia is still subject to the dangerous air pollutants being produced as a result of combustion of fossil fuels.
Another major disadvantage of extracting fossil fuels is the array of byproducts produced, most of which are harmful substances such as toxic gases. Every year, hundreds of thousands of coal miners die due to being exposed to the toxic gases being released in coal mines, some of which are so harmful that even the exposure of a few seconds would result in certain death.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the wildlife has been the real victim of the harmful effects of using fossil fuels. With the increase in deforestation to create mines and oil rigs, as well as the harmful substances being dumped into the streams which the wildlife once considered as their primary source of drinking water, many species have even become extinct as a result of these efforts being made to extract substances that are already causing enough harm to the environment.
Another pain that is mainly suffered by the wildlife, specifically the life under the sea, transportation of fossil fuels has always been a challenge, which has caused several accidents over the past decades, most of which involve tanker oil spills. Thousands of tons of oil gets spilled into the oceans, making the entire area uninhabitable for wildlife, and the marine life that already resides in that part of the ocean either gets displaced from home or dies by consuming huge amounts of dumped oil.
We may have heard of families dying from gas leaks, either due to an explosion or simply unintentionally consuming dangerous amounts of it. In underdeveloped countries in particular, gas leaks are a common household problem, and several families die of such leaks each year due to consumption of dangerous amounts of natural gas. Since it is odourless, people don’t realize a gas leak especially while sleeping, and by the time they begin to realize something is wrong, it’s already too late.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of tons of coal is transported through various routes around the world, much of which is by land. Unfortunately during transportation, some of the coal in trucks and trains is crushed into coal dust which gets deposited into the air. Any cities or colonies that are within the route of these trucks are exposed to the toxic coal dust which, if inhaled by young children or old people, can be fatal.
Acidification of waters
Burning fossil fuels, although most of which happens on land, indirectly affects the acidity of the water around it. The carbon emitted by burning of fuel is absorbed by the water, which in turn increases the acidity of the water. Over the past century, the water on Earth has turned 30 percent more acidic, which has resulted in the deaths of various species that thrive on calcium carbonate such as lobsters, oysters and other shellfish, yet another damage the use of fossil fuels is causing to the wildlife.