Burning of Fossil Fuels Effects

The Consequences of our Continued Dependence on Fossil Fuels

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TheWorldCounts, 10 May, 2015

The Consequences of our Continued Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Currently, the worldwide demand for fossil fuels is on the increase more than ever. With many countries reporting higher consumption and demand, companies that work on the supply side are gladly investing more resources, in the building of infrastructure for fossil fuel processing.

But even with the threat of climate change and the radical changes in our environment, we have not pushed for an alternative resource for fossil fuel. Not as avidly as we should be in light of the impending concerns.

Related Article: Shocking Facts About Climate Change

Even with growing interest and investment in the field of renewable energy and sustainable procedures, the market has been stuck for the last twenty years - with fossils fuels accounting for a staggering 87% of total energy usage worldwide!

This kind of continued dependence on the fossils fuels industry has had several far-reaching effects, and is now set to cause more damage to the environment… unless there is immediate change. Public and private efforts to usher in new, alternative energy have been relegated to the back seat, and even the most optimistic forecast for the coming years do not look encouraging.

Some Important Forecasts and Implications

Research carried out by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that the world is inevitably headed towards irreversible changes in the climate in the near future, unless there is a concerted effort to deal with the immediate and long-term effects of massive fossils fuel use.

Here are their estimates:

  • The demand for oil is set to rise from 87 million barrels per day to a whopping 99 million barrels per day in the next two decades. 
  • The annual costs to meet this demand are also set to escalate to about $2,000 billion per year.
  • To meet these demands, there needs to be further investment and the development of added infrastructure in the fossil fuels industry.
  • On the other hand, there is little hope for a surge in the development of renewable energy and sustainable methods over the same time frame.

This represents a double-edged dilemma- if things go as planned:

  • The world will see further increase in emissions. The environment will be set for more damage.
  • If the energy demand does move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources, there would be a great risk of stranded assets with massive amounts of investment towards developing fossil fuels infrastructure.

Scientists have recommended that an increase of two degrees be regarded as the safety limit in case of global warming. To enforce that limit, emissions should be kept well within 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. If the current trends should continue, this limit is set to be reached within the next three years with no more room for maneuver.

Associated Risks and Harmful Effects

Unless quick and drastic action is taken on a global level to contain the problem, there are significant risks that are sure to emerge gradually over the coming years.

Along with rise in global warming and permanent changes to the climate, this inertia of the fossil fuels market is also set to cause major health problems for large populations across the world.

CO2 emissions are projected to increase to about 15.2 Gt by the year 2035, accounting for about 40% of all global emission in that duration of time.

Related Article: Temperature Change Over the Last 100 Years

With the transport industry accounting for much of the market share of fossil fuels, emissions are set to grow further as the passenger vehicle fleet worldwide is set to double to almost 1.7 billion in the year 2035. By 2050, emissions look set to double in quantity.

Continued expansion in the field of energy manufacture continues to deal heavily with fossil fuels, with large amount of coal-fired electricity plants all set to come up in the coming years, adding to the emissions.

Leading gas, oil and coal companies around the world look set to invest more for exploration and infrastructure development in the coming years, with renewable energy holding only a minuscule share of the market.

Many countries are also deciding to stop relying on nuclear energy for their power needs. The move away from nuclear energy makes the situation worse, with no certainty of investments in alternative, renewable energy sources in the immediate horizon.

With the emergence of China as the leading consumer of energy in the world, the center of gravity is starting to shift away from the US and Europe towards Asia. Without a firm change in policies and worldwide efforts to contain this continued lock-in to the fossil fuel market, the environment is all set to take a hit in the near future.

Check out other fascinating environmental facts at The World Counts Stories.

References

  1. http://www.globalopportunitynetwork.org/risks/
  2. http://www.globalopportunitynetwork.org/resources/risks/lack_of_fresh_water.pdf
  3. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/nov/09/fossil-fuel-infrastructure-climate-change
  4. http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2011/november/the-world-is-locking-itself-into-an-unsustainable-energy-future-which-would-have-far-reaching-consequences-iea-warns-in-its-latest-world-energy-outlook.html

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