Negative Effects Of Fossil Fuels Combustion

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Over the years, people strived to find a cheap sufficient way to produce energy to power engines, factories and houses. Earliest in the times coal was used mainly in heating; there were real factories, but with the introduction of the first steam engine the Newcomen engine which was first built in 1712 which was used in transportation early cars, ships and trains the demand for coal skyrocketed. Coal, petroleum and natural gas are the main types of fossil fuels that are used in the combustion process to produce energy for electricity, heating and plenty of other things. It is undeniably true that the usage of fossil fuels had changed the course of human history and increased the living standards of millions of people, nevertheless, fossil fuels combustion unambiguously is the main contributor to the global warming crisis, has drastic effects on the health of living organisms and a non-renewable finite source of energy. Thus our deal to continuously use fossil fuels as our main source of energy is indeed a Faustian bargain because we a are trading our long-term permanence of earth, biodiversity and health in order to momentarily gain energy and prosper.

Many believe that fossil fuels made our lives easier and made humans flourish and that before we label fossil fuels usage as immoral we should take into consideration the benefits it has done to humans. In “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”, American energy theorist and the President of the Center for Industrial Progress Alex Epstein argues that, although sometimes labelled as ‘immoral,’ the use of fossil fuels dramatically improves the overall progress of humanity, and improves life expectancy and income. From Epstein’s point of view, our goal should be maximizing human flourishing not minimizing human impact. Therefore, when we consider fossil fuels, we shouldn’t consider limiting their usage just because they cause CO2 and toxic emission and some warming to the earth. We should look carefully at the full picture of their potential impacts on human flourishing now and in the future. The fossil fuel industry produces over 80% of the world’s power because it is the only industry that has figured out how to produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy for electricity, transportation, and heating on a scale of billions which we drastically need. Though it is a valid point argument, but using fossil fuels for the instant gratification and short term benefit and denying its long term repercussion is a short-sighted irrational decision just like how Dr Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s well known play didn’t think of how the years of knowledge and power which he sold his soul for are finite and will end sooner or later and that his bargain and sinful acts will cause him agony and misery in the eternal afterlife.

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Burning fossil fuels doesn’t just provide us with sufficient energy for economic growth; it steers the global warming crisis as well. The combustion of fossil fuels produces large quantities of CO2; carbon emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to climate change and global heating[1]. Higher temperatures are linked to almost all of climate change’s most severe impacts, including more frequent and intense heat waves, widespread crop failures, and dramatic shifts in animal and plant ranges. As the world warms, ice sheets and glaciers melt, and ocean water expands. This produces sea level rise, which can disrupt and damage coastal communities and infrastructure in virtually every sea-bordering country in the world. For example, Antarctica has been losing about 134 billion metric tons of ice per year since 2002. This rate could speed up if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current pace, some experts say, causing sea levels to rise several meters over the next 50 to 150 years[2]. Global warming stresses ecosystems through temperature rises, water shortages, increased fire threats, drought, weed and pest invasions, intense storm damage and salt invasion, just to name a few. Some of Australia’s great natural icons, such as the Great Barrier Reef, are already threatened.

Fossil fuels combustion emits when numerous air pollutants like Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that are harmful to both the environment and public health. According to an article published by Harvard School of Public Health fossil fuels combustion releases pollutants that lead to early deaths, heart attacks and respiratory disorders. Ozone, particulates, and other compounds released during coal burning, for example, can contribute to the development of asthma. The World Health Organization estimates that 300 million people in the world have this condition during any given year, and 20 million people in the United States have it [4]. Per a study published by MIT, air pollution from power generation causes 52,000 premature deaths per year and a study published by NYU revealed that the health costs associated with premature births from fossil fuel emissions add up to nearly $5 billion [6]. Accordingly, our sights are blurred by the low prices of fossil fuels compared to solar energy for example and we use them although the health risks and problems it causes may cost us a lot more. It may cost us our lives. In this Faustian deal people usually under-value the thing they are bargaining with, their health and survival, and over-values things they bargain for, their momentary prosperity and flourishing.


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