The Environmental Impact of Fossil Fuels: Facts and Figures

Fossil Fuels Effect on Environment

Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, have been the primary source of energy for centuries.

However, their use has come at a cost to the environment. From air pollution to climate change, the effects of fossil fuels are far-reaching and can have long-lasting consequences.

In this guide, we'll explore the impact of fossil fuels on the environment and what we can do to reduce their harmful effects. Also, take advantage of the special offer below to save money on eco-friendly products from Amazon. 

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What are Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuels are natural resources formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been buried for millions of years. These resources include coal, oil, and natural gas and are used to generate electricity, power transportation, and heat homes and buildings.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, meaning that once they are used up, they cannot be replaced. The use of fossil fuels has been a major driver of economic growth and development, but it has also had significant environmental consequences.

Why are Fossil Fuels bad?

Burning fossil fuels releases large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, which is a major contributor to climate change. Fossil fuels also negatively impact our air quality, water, soil, oceans, and wildlife.  

The Impact of Fossil Fules on Air Quality

1. Health issues

Fossil fuels contribute to air pollution, which can have serious health consequences for humans and the environment. Burning fossil fuels releases pollutants into the air, such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these pollutants contribute to the formation of smog and poor air quality. 

When inhaled, smog irritates our throat and lungs. It can burn your eyes and make you cough or wheeze more than usual.

Prolonged exposure can cause heart disease, and other health issues including headaches, dizziness, and elevated blood pressure.

Harvard University estimates that more than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution. In the United States 350,000 premature deaths are attributed to fossil fuel pollution.

What causes these pollutants? The largest contributor is transportation such as cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes. In fact, the transportation industry is responsible for approximately 45% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States.

2. Ozone Depletion

Furthermore, air pollution damages the ozone layer which protects us from the sun’s UV rays.  Too much UV rays can damage crops and reduce farm yields.

The Impact of Fossil Fuels on Water and Soil

1. Spills and Leaks

Fossil fuels not only have a significant impact on air quality and climate change, but they also affect water and soil quality. The extraction and transportation of fossil fuels can lead to spills and leaks, contaminating water sources and soil. Fracking, a method of extracting natural gas, has been linked to water contamination and even earthquakes.

2. Acid Rain

Additionally, burning fossil fuels produces acid rain that harms plants and animals.  It damages trees and causes soils and water bodies to acidify, making the water unsuitable for fish and other wildlife.

3. Algae in Lakes

Also, high concentrations of nitrogen can stimulate blooms of algae in lakes. Although algae are a natural occurrence, excessively burning fossil fuels can accelerate the process which is called eutrophication. Eutrophication decreases oxygen levels in bodies of water and can kill fish and plants.

The Role of Fossil Fuels in Climate Change

Greenhouse Effect

Fossil fuels are also a major contributor to climate change. When burned, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the Earth's temperature to rise. This leads to a range of impacts, including more frequent and severe weather events, rising sea levels, and loss of biodiversity.

Can We Keep Burning Fossil Fuels?

Burning fossil fuels continuously increases the earth’s temperature. Scientist have agreed that going over 1.5 degrees Celsius will significantly impact our environment. Sea levels could rise to dangerous levels, severe weather can threaten homes and businesses, and entire species could become extinct. This won’t happen immediately, but 1.5 degrees Celsius represents a critical threshold. As the world gets warmer and warmer the effects will be felt more and more. 

The Role of Fossil Fuels in Businesses

Many businesses must burn fossil fuels to create products and provide services. However, a lot of businesses recognize their impact on the planet and try to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. They often implement corporate social responsibility programs increase their use of clean energy and decrease their carbon footprint. Many companies have goals to be carbon neutral or net zero in the future.

They are increasingly using solar to power their warehouses, plants, and offices and electric vehicles to transport products. Some have encouraged eco-friendly commuting practices or let their employees work from home and travel less often to avoid burning fossil fuels.

10 Easy Ways to Use Less Fossil Fuels

We can all take steps to burn fewer fossil fuels. It is important to start small by making slight changes to your daily routine. You can then move to bigger changes that have an even bigger environmental impact. Some examples are below.

1. Walk or ride a bike when possible

For short trips, try walking or riding a bike if possible. The less you drive the less fossil fuels you burn. Electric bikes or scooters can also be beneficial. 

2. Use public transportation

Whether on your daily commute or for trips out of town, try to use public transportation if available. Although taking a train or a bus requires fossil fuels, it is less than if each person individually drove. 

3. Limit unnecessary business travel

Face to face interaction is incredibly valuable. However, sometimes it can be easier, less expensive, and better for the environment to meet virtually over Zoom or Skype instead of flying or driving to a meeting. 

4. Use solar panels

Whether at home or in your business, using solar panels is a good way to go green and limit your impact on the environment. They are also great for road trips, camping, or even just to charge your phone or laptop! 

You can buy lightweight, foldable solar panels that are easy to set up and use at home or while outdoors. They come with solar generators that store the energy and let you plug in your phone, laptop, refrigerator, or appliances to save money and use clean energy. Our readers love that they don't require any special knowledge or experience with solar. Just plug and play! 

Or you can buy small, inexpensive solar panels or power banks to charge your phone or tablet. The possibilities are endless! 

Finally, you can buy traditional solar panels for the roof of your house or RV. They come in full kits with everything you need!

Having solar panels is also great for storms and power outages. With the right equipment, you and your family will never lose power again! 

5. Leverage solar lights

Solar lights for home, camping, outdoors, and emergencies can also reduce your reliance on fossil fuels. 

6. Use energy efficient products

Additionally, energy efficient products such as thermostats, washers, dryers, and refrigerators can reduce your emissions. 

7. Reduce electricity usage

The same goes with using less electricity. Use natural light whenever possible and automate your energy savings by using smart plugs to turn off devices and appliances when not in use. No hub required!

8. Avoid single use plastics

Carry reusable water bottles and avoid single use plastic whenever possible. If you must use disposable cups, buy biodegradable or compostable cups that break down naturally in the environment. 

9. Use products made from recycled materials

Furthermore, try to buy products made from recycled materials to use in your daily life. Whether that is pens, notebooks, paper, napkins, or other items. Fossil fuels are used to create new products. Using recycled materials helps decrease our use of fossil fuels. 

10. Consider an electric or hybrid car

Finally, if possible, consider an electric or hybrid car if it is right for you and your family. Eliminating the need for gas has a significant impact on burning less fossil fuels and relying on clean energy. 

What are your thoughts on fossil fuels effect on the environment? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author Jess Nielsen

Jess has spent years travelling the world full-time. Nothing else comes close to the reaches of this emotive activity...

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