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Environmental Effects of the Fossil Fuel Industry

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The Earth. It is a home to thousands if not millions of different species of all kinds of organisms that live in various types of environments. This Earth responds to change very readily, so what happens when one Industry interrupts the Earths environments and starts to use/produce materials that deteriorate said Earth? Change. Devastation. These are only a few of the consequences that these actions cause, and the entirety of the fault can mostly be thrown onto one industry; The Fossil Fuel Industry. Since its beginning, the fossil fuel industry has been greatly changing and impacting environments around the world, bending them due to the harmful byproducts like CO2 produced as a result of their products; Fossil fuels, which are a group of energy sources that were formed from ancient plants and organisms approximately 360 to 286 million years ago. (Energy.Gov) These actions however have taken a very large toll on the Earth’s environmental health and could be catastrophic if left unchecked. The Fossil Fuel industry has greatly impacted the Earth and its environment and is significant because it is a large part of our everyday life, even so most of it is indirect, supplying us with the materials needed to produce electricity, gasoline, heat, and various other products like plastics. This industry however has various adverse effects on our environment that we reside in which, in turn, directly affects us so it is imperative to understand what is happening to the environment, with things like environmental destruction, global warming, and problems related to them such as coral bleaching and glacial melting which adversely affect the Earth in the long run by irreversibly changing environments.

Effects of the Fossil Fuel Industries products

The Industrial Revolution was one of the biggest leaps in human advancement in history. This revolution saw the rise of electricity, automation, and the coming of various inventions. This revolution also brought upon the basis of modern-day technology and society as it sparked a whole new era of knowledge, and was fueled by many industries, the most prominent the Fossil Fuel Industry. While not noticeable at the time of its beginnings, this Industry has also set rise to some of the worst environmental devastations facing man today, a few being global warming, glacial melting, and destruction of environments. A major use of the products produced by the Fossil fuel Industry is used for electricity, which is made through the burning of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, natural gas, and crude oil to power lights, electronics, etc. The burning of these resources though causes Carbon Dioxide to be released into the atmosphere at a faster rate than it can be absorbed which acts as an insulator in the atmosphere, absorbing more heat, which accumulates over time, and this is known as global warming. As the years progressed, the excessive burning of fossil fuels added CO2 to the atmosphere much faster than the Earth’s natural system could remove it. Prior to the Industrial Revolution (Before the prominence of burning Fossil Fuels), atmospheric carbon levels remained constant at around 280 parts per million (ppm). (Casper, 2010) This meant that the natural carbon sinks were balanced between what was being emitted and what was being stored. After the industrial revolution began and CO2 levels began to increase—315 ppm in 1958, to 383 ppm in 2007, to 409 ppm in 2017, this threw off the environments natural way of dealing with carbon dioxide through carbon sinks as they became overloaded according to Julie Kerr Casper, a doctorate Biologist, in her book “Global Warming Cycles”. This buildup of Carbon Dioxide in turn causes Earths average temperature to rise, which it has about 0.9 degrees Celsius in the past century, which seems insignificant but has disrupted many sensitive environments (Casper, 2010). One such environment would be the Great Barrier Reef as an example, which has suffered great losses due to the warming of the sea temperatures, mostly due to coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is caused by stresses induced by changes in environmental conditions such as elevated sea temperatures. (Smith, 2006) The coral usually recovers under cooler conditions but if too many algae are lost it may die. Widespread bleaching events occurred on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia in 1998 and 2002 (when temperatures over much of the reef were more than 2°C above normal for more than two months)” (Smith, 2006). Along with the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, another environment, glacial ones, have been subjected to Global Warmings’ onset, as in recent decades many glaciers have been shrinking in size, and they are a good indicator of this because of how responsive they are to climate change caused by the Fossil Fuel Industry. For example, the Alaskan glaciers are losing approximately 6 feet of thickness per year, and the glaciers in the Alps are expected to be gone by the end of the 21st century. (Casper, 2009) This references the temperature changes caused by the Industry and its products, and their impact on earths environments.

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Impact of the Fossil Fuel Industry on coastal and oceanic areas

Going along with the trend of environmental damage as a result of the Fossil fuel Industry brings in two more problems caused by said industry, and these are Global sea level rising and oil spills. Among the Fossil Fuel industries, they use various methods of transportation to move their products from where they’re harvested to factories/power plants and a common method of the transportation of oil, especially when importing it, is through massive oil tankers, or boats that store large amounts of different types of oil like crude. These methods are relatively inexpensive and for the most part reliable, but when that reliability waivers, it can severely impact oceanic environments in the wake of oil spills. The severity of an oil spill depends on where its spilled (Shallow or deep waters), and the type of oil spilled. According to the NOAA, the most susceptible oceanic environment to oil is Mangrove Forests, and when in an experiment when Mangrove seedlings and saplings were exposed to weathered crude oil, 96% died compared to 0% in the unsoiled group, which further shows how oil spills can affect oceanic environments. Also observed in this experiment was the death of bird, fish, and invertebrates in the area of experimentation within the oiled group which shows that oil spills not only affect environments but the species that reside within them. (Hoff, Michel, Hense, Proffitt, Delgado, Shigenaka, Mearns, 2014) Along with oil spills affecting the ocean, Global warming caused by the byproducts of the Fossil Fuel Industry has also led to another problem involving the ocean, Sea level Rising. Sea level rising is when sea levels rise above their normal measurements and stay above that normal and continue to raise from there. Since 1880, it has been observed that global mean sea level has risen around 8-9 inches with a third of that occurring in the last 2 decades with most coming from glacial melting and thermal expansion of seawater due to global warming. (Lindsey, 2019) The effects of this global sea level rising are concentrated more heavily on coastal areas where a wide range of effects has been observed. With higher background water levels one observable effect on the environment is higher and more dangerous storm surges, and more frequent high-tide flooding, which both can destroy coastal town environments taking a toll on its inhabitants. This rise in sea level creates stress on coastal ecosystems that provide recreation, protection from storms, areas that provide habitats for local organisms, and the raising saltwater levels contaminate coastal freshwater aquafers. (Lindsey, 2019) All of this can be tracked back to the Fossil Fuel Industry and the byproducts created by the industry’s products and itself, which amplifies global warming that then branches off into other various problems in the environment.

Conclusion

The Fossil Fuel Industry since its beginning has bent the environment with its various products and their byproducts with various consequences to the world around them including Global Warming, Glacial melting, Coral bleaching, Oil spills, and rising sea levels, which are both devastating and destructive with no clear end in sight to them as the use of Fossil fuels is still growing at an exponential rate. The information here could possibly be used to raise awareness about how humans take care of their surroundings and how it would be in humanity’s best interest to save the Earth before something irreversible happens. Overall the Fossil Fuel Industry has had a massive impact on the environment since its beginning and will continue to do so until a solution is made or implemented.

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Environmental Effects of the Fossil Fuel Industry. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/environmental-effects-of-the-fossil-fuel-industry/
“Environmental Effects of the Fossil Fuel Industry.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/environmental-effects-of-the-fossil-fuel-industry/
Environmental Effects of the Fossil Fuel Industry. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/environmental-effects-of-the-fossil-fuel-industry/> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].
Environmental Effects of the Fossil Fuel Industry [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Feb 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/environmental-effects-of-the-fossil-fuel-industry/
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