Fossil Fuel Consumption, Co2 and Its Impact on Global Climate

Topics: Carbon dioxide, Fossil fuel, Climate change Pages: 5 (1625 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Fossil Fuel Consumption, CO2 and Its Impact on Global Climate

Background: At the beginning of human history, we had to satisfy our energy needs (for food, heat and movement) by using our own muscle power and gathering or hunting naturally available plants, animals and wood. Each stage in the evolution of human society (the development of farming, domestication of animals, harnessing of wind and water power) increased the average per capita energy use, but it was the Industrial Revolution and the exploitation of fossil fuels which marked the transformation of societies into the energy-intensive economies of today. Since the eighteenth century the industrialising countries have come to rely on non-renewable energy resources, and at present about 80 per cent (Myers, 1994) of the world's commercial energy is derived from oil, coal and gas. Although it has been observed that the growth of energy consumption is closely correlated with the increases in gross national product thus our economic development, the major sources of energy (that is fossil fuels) are 'stock resources'. Fossil fuels are consumed by use and the current consumption patterns are non-sustainable. It is recognised that energy conservation and the development of renewable energy sources will be needed to sustain economic growth. The quantity of ultimately recoverable fossil fuels is limited by geology and remains a matter of suspicion, but the view of the 1970s that scarcity was imminent is still popular. It is the 1973 Oil Crisis marked the transition from abundant, low-cost energy to an era of increasing prices and scarcity. Today concerns over scarcity have been overtaken by the question of whether human beings can afford to meet the environmental costs of continued fossil fuel consumption. One of the most widespread concern related to global climatic changes.

Introduction: Climate represents normal weather condition of an area over a period of many years. This is in contrast to weather which is the day to day changes in the atmosphere. It is now realised that our global "climatic normals" had fluctuated in the past millions of years which was nowhere related to human activities. Nevertheless, with the increasing human population and our reliance on fossil fuels since the last century, we have definitely 'participated' in the climatic changes which are taking place to a certain extent. Since the Stockholm Conference in 1972, more and more attentions have been drawn to the issue of global warming, which is the increase in global temperature caused by the atmospheric greenhouse effect. We have greenhouse effect because some trace components of our atmosphere re-absorb and retain certain wavelengths of heat radiated from the Earth's surface, and the burning of fossil fuels have increased the tropospheric concentration of all of these compounds, especially carbon dioxide # (CO2).

The Greenhouse Gas ¾ CO2: A Product of Fossil Fuel Consumption: 'Pollution' of the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels has many effects. Perhaps the best know are modifications that have led to changes in carbon dioxide. In some ways carbon dioxide cannot be classified as an air pollutant as it is reasonably abundant in the natural atmosphere (0.03%), and it is a basic product of all fossil fuel consumption. Although the chemical reaction in combustion of fossil fuels is not always simple, it can be summarised as the release of the carbon combined with atmospheric oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide. This process is often referred as respiration, such that: C6H12O6 + 6O2 + heat ® 6CO2 + 6H2O Here, we see that carbon dioxide is not an impurity, as a matter of fact, life on the earth is somehow depending on this gas, either directly through photosynthesis (plants) or indirectly via the food-chain (animals). Nevertheless, this gas plays an important role in the heat balance of the earth, because of its distinctive heat-storage properties. We often refer carbon...

Bibliography: Benarde, M. A., 1992, Global Warning
Global Warming, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
Goudie, A., 1994, The Human Impact on the Natural Environment, Cambridge: The
MIT Press, 301-7.
Myers, N., 1994, The Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, London: Gaia Books Limited,
Tolba, M. K., 1992, The World Environment 1972-1992, London: Chapman & Hall, 61-
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