Fossil fuels and global warming are so much in the news that it seems easy to put them out of mind. In this column I want to discuss the link between fossil fuels and the warming of our atmosphere.
Coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels which are found under the earth’s surface. When they are burned carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, where it traps the sun’s heat and raises atmospheric temperatures. Fossil fuels are new reservoirs of carbon being added to the atmosphere because they have been trapped underground for millions of years. Now they upset the former balance of carbon dioxide released from trees and other plant life because they are being mined. The excess CO2 is causing the warming of our atmosphere and the surface of the earth.
Of the fossil fuels, coal releases the most carbon dioxide when burned, so in the interest of reducing global warming it is essential that we reduce or eliminate coal usage. Alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar energy can do a great deal to deduce coal usage.
What evidence is there of global warming? There is irrefutable evidence that the polar ice caps are melting. Melting of ice on Greenland and Antarctica will result in raised ocean levels in coastal areas. Large portions of ocean reefs are dying from increased ocean temperatures. Some fish species are migrating north to find cooler water temperatures. We can stop powering our electricity generating plants with coal and turn to the much cleaner wind and solar power.
Allowing continued increases of global warming will threaten the environment our grandchildren will inherit.