Describe and explain the impact of the use of fossil fuels on the environment.
Describe and explain the impact of the use of fossil fuels on the environment
Fossil fuels are created from dead creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago. Over intense heat and pressure, fossil fuels from these dead creatures have been created: natural gas, coal and oil are example of fossil fuels.
Firstly, burning fossil fuels releases gases into the atmosphere. An example of the gas released is sulphur dioxide which combines with the water vapour in the atmosphere to produce sulphuric acid. Therefore, when it precipitates with rain, this causes acid rain. In the Lake District in the 1970s there were problems with acid rain as they affected the biodiversity of the area. The acid rain caused the water in the rivers to become more acidic that killed fish and otters (this is especially important as it is a zone of protection of wildlife).
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Also, nitrogen which is released by burning fossil fuels is also released and in 1970s, in the Scottish Highlands, this has led to greater nitrogen content in the water which can lead to eutrophication. This causes algae and bacteria to respire, removing the oxygen and therefore killing the biodiversity in the water (such as the trout). The main negative is that the top of the food chain such as fish are killed and therefore will affect the rest of the food chain. In places such as the ‘black triangle’ in Europe’s most polluted areas, the trees in Poland have been killed which also reduced the biodiversity.
Also, burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide which is greenhouse gas. This increases the world temperature causing climate change and therefore will melt ice caps (killing species such as Polar bears and can cause them to become extinct).
Using oil means that oil has to be transported in large tankers (that can carry 12,000 barrels of oil). In May 2010, a nitrogen gas explosion led to an oil spill (from the TNC BP) in the deep water horizon in Mexico. This led to 11 people dying and as it is home to around 8,000 species, these were too affected such as the Brown Pelican and the sea turtle. The animals are lubricated in oil which makes it difficult for them to swim and when a bird is covered in oil, this reduces the animal’s ability to control its body temperature which can cause hypothermia.
Finally, coal mining has led to removal of large areas of land which can lead to wildlife loss. Also, this is problem in China that relies on 40% of coal as when mining for coal, dust and particles are released which can causes smog. Also, mining for coal is very dangerous, in China alone 2,000 people were killed in accidents in 2011.