Climate change has been a cause for concern and controversy for decades. Although there are
a number of contributing factors that play an integral role in the climate change, fossil fuels are
also responsible for changing the climate. Learn more about fossil fuels, and they affect the
As we continue to have more severe storms, watch the Arctic melt away, and have warmer than
usual seasons, we are experiencing climate change firsthand. Climate change is a major cause
for concern and controversy, and there are a number of contributing factors to consider.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), some climate experts estimate
that by the year 2100, we will experience an increase of at least eight degrees. While a small
increase may not seem to have devastating consequences, the existing issues related to
climate change will become worse.
Learn more about how fossil fuels are impacting our climate and contributing to the rise in
What Are Fossil Fuels?
Before we discuss the ways that fossil fuels are changing the climate, it’s important to gain a
better understanding of the fuels. Much as the name suggests, fossil fuels are formed over
millions of years from the remains of dead plants and animals that were buried beneath layers
of rocks and dirt.
Heat from the earth’s core and the pressure from being buried transformed the remains (or
fossils) into oil, natural gas, and coal. Considering how long it takes to “make” more of these
types of fuels, they are non-renewable.
The U.S., alone, receives about 80 percent of its total energy from nonrenewable fuels. Oil,
coal, and natural gas are integral to our daily lives from heating our homes, fueling our cars, and
supplying us with electricity. Here’s a closer look at each fuel and our reliance on each one:
As our reliance on fuels continues, there’s an increase in carbon pollution. When carbon dioxide, methane, soot, and other pollutants from the fuel is released into the atmosphere, they trap the sun’s heat and cause global warming.
Climate Changes Due To Fossil Fuels
When we experience an unexpectedly warm day in the middle of winter, we may see it as a
welcome change. As climate change continues, and we don’t reduce our need for nonrenewable fuels, we are likely to see warmer winters (which can be more problematic than we think).
Warmer than usual days are not the only result of climate change due to fossil fuels. While
changes will slowly occur, the consequences have the potential to be devastating.
Frequent Severe Weather
If it seems that we experience more tornadoes, flooding, and hurricanes, you’re right. As the temperatures continue to rise, severe weather and natural disasters are more likely to occur with frequency.
As drought conditions and severe storms become more frequent, we are faced with several problems. Excess rain and flooding results in public health and safety issues. Drought conditions increase the frequency of wildfires and affect clean drinking water supplies.
Dry weather also increases the chance of dust storms, extreme heat, and flash flooding. If flooding occurs more frequently, we can see an increase in food borne or waterborne illnesses.
Mold growth can affect health and flea, tick, and mosquito populations become even more difficult to control.
Whether dry or wet, excess conditions can affect everything from health to the integrity of landscapes.
An Increase In Mortalities
While the increase in temperature may eventually make the planet uninhabitable for all living beings, even the slow increase in climate change due to fossil fuels can increase the number of death throughout the globe.
When we consider the illnesses, accidents, and other issues that stem from drought or flooding conditions, global warming may claim the lives of many but especially children, the elderly, and individuals who are considered low-income.
Consider heat waves. If temperatures continue to rise and we see longer stretches of excessive heat, more people are at risk of becoming ill or even dying due to heat-related events, particularly for those who are already heat-sensitive or who don’t have air conditioning.
Although floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters claim lives every year, extreme heat events are more deadly in the U.S.
Not only will the human population be affected by climate change, but we are likely to see a significant loss of wildlife due to global warming.
An article in Science Advances reports that in a 2015 study, vertebrate species are
disappearing about 114 times faster than what’s considered normal and climate change (along with pollution and deforestation) is responsible.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nearly 30 percent of animal and plant species risk extinction if the planet temperature raises about 33 degrees Fahrenheit and if it warms by more than 37 degrees Fahrenheit, most ecosystems will experience extreme stress.
Some of the most at-risk animals include:
These are just a small handful of animals that could cease to exist due to climate change; every living organism (including humans) are at risk.
Today, the people who experience food insecurity the most are those who live in low-income communities. As climate change continues, we are likely to experience frost-free and longer growing seasons. Extreme temperature changes will result in extreme weather that can destroy crops.
Not only will some of our favorite foods become non-existent, but we the supply of seemingly endless food will become limited.
Heavily Polluted Air
Depending on where you live, you may already experience heavily polluted air. While many people blame air pollution on nonrenewable fuels that come from vehicles, wildfires can also affect air quality.
As temperatures rise, we experience ground-level ozone, which contributes to smog. Polluted air results in more visits to the hospital and even higher risk of death for individuals with breathing problems. Airborne allergens are also likely to increase, causing issues for those who have allergies.
High Sea Levels and Acidic Oceans
As the Arctic experiences rising temps, the ice continues to melt fast. We’ve already seen how the melting ice is threatening the polar bear population, but it can also result in higher sea levels.
It’s estimated that by the year 2100, our oceans will be one to four feet higher, which will
undoubtedly threaten and possibly wipe out island nations and low lying lands throughout the globe.
The ocean is more likely to become acidic as it continues to absorb the emissions that come from non-renewable fuels. Acidic oceans will affect all marine life, but especially those with calcium carbonate shells like crabs and corals.
If the shellfish population is affected, not only will other marine life suffer from a lack of food, but communities who rely on selling shellfish will experience a significant economic loss.
How Will The Climate Change Affect Your Region?
Although climate change affects the whole planet, here’s what various regions throughout the
U.S. might expect due to emissions from non-renewable fuels.
If You Live In The Northeast
Since the Northeast is near the ocean, rising sea levels are likely to affect the infrastructure,
agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems, and the livelihood of several communities. Heat waves are
likely as well as excessive and heavy rain.
If You Live In The Southeast
Similar to problems in the Northeast, the Southeast is likely to experience extreme heat
conditions, a decrease in water availability, and a rising sea level. Extreme heat events will
affect the health and wellness of communities.
If You Live In The Northwest
As another region that’s close to the ocean, the rising sea level will threaten infrastructure and
the ocean may become more acidic. Wildfires will continue, water supplies may be threatened,
and tree coverage will be affected by insects, disease, and wildfires.
If You Live In The Southwest
Climate change will increase the chances of extreme heat, drought, a decline in water supplies,
food insecurity, and other extreme weather that will affect coastal areas in particular.
If You Live In The Midwest
Living in the midwest, the threats are different than those who live near the ocean, but extreme
heat events and severe weather will continue to increase. Such events may affect everything
from public health and air quality to agriculture and transportation.