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Hidden Impacts Of Fossil Fuels On Plants, Animals

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28th-Nov-2019       
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Shishir Reza :

The term "fossil fuel" refers to a natural fuel source that forms from the remains of living organisms. The substances which act as energy sources are known as fuels. The buried organic matters which can be converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas or any heavy oils by applying pressure and heat on earth's crust over hundreds of years are known as fossil fuels. Humans access fossil fuels today by drilling and mining into the earth to extract them from rocks and geologic formations.
According to the US Department of Energy, they supply nearly 90 percent of our energy. They are widely-used, easily accessible and even easier to transport. But, this dependency on fossil fuels is one of the major causes of climate change. Burning fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nitrous oxide, which causes air pollution. Because of that, calls to minimize their use, and transition to using renewable energy instead have increased.
The utilization of coal, petroleum, natural gas and uranium are much higher in developed countries than developing. USA, China, Russia, Japan and India use more fossil fuels and emit limitless CO2 (Carbon-di-oxide) which is contributing global warming and altering climatic scenario. Climate change effects will be the cause of suffering of the various sectors of the country including agriculture, industry, infrastructure, livelihoods, marine resources, forestry, biodiversity, human health and utility services.  
Combustion of fossil fuels generates sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, which fall to Earth as acid rain, impacting both natural areas and the built environment. Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere. In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning coal. It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island accident.
In 2016, roughly 78% of global warming emissions from the US were energy-related of CO2, made up of the fossil fuels we talked about earlier. According to NASA, the rise in temperature has created an effect with potentially dire consequences, specifically: the rise in sea level, melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, extreme weather conditions, and shifting climate patterns or climate change. Evidence shows that the world is indeed getting hotter every day. Evidence shows that the earth's average temperature has gone up 1.4° F over the past century. A study shows that the melting of ice in Antarctica has soared by 75% in just ten years, which thereby increases sea level. The melting of polar ice caps, glaciers and rise in sea level point to some of the negative effects of climate change.
Carbon fuels such as wood, coal, petroleum release un-burnt carbon particles in the environment. These particles are very dangerous pollutants and cause respiratory diseases for example asthma.
When fuels are incompletely burnt, they release carbon monoxide gas into the atmosphere. This gas is very dangerous as it is poisonous in nature. If we burn coal in a closed room, then the person sleeping in that room will be killed by the action of carbon monoxide.
The combustion of fossil fuels also releases a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which is responsible for global warming. Global warming is a rise in the overall temperature of earth's surface. This leads to melting of polar caps and rise in the sea level and further results in flooding of coastal regions.
Burned coal and diesel releases sulphur dioxide gas. This gas is extremely corrosive and suffocating in nature. Petrol gives off oxides of nitrogen. The oxides of sulfur and nitrogen get dissolved in rainwater and form acids. This is known as acid rain. This water is very harmful to plants, animals, and physical infrastructure.
(Shishir Reza, Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association)

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