Negative Effects of Fossil Fuel

Off shore oil rig burn off
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Fossil fuels have been formed from the organic remains of long-dead plants and animals. They contain a high percentage of carbon and hydrocarbons. Primary sources of energy used around the world include petroleum, coal, and natural gas, all fossil fuels. With energy needs increasing, the production and use of these fossil fuels create serious environmental concerns. Until a global movement for renewable energy is successful, the negative effects of fossil fuel will continue.

Air Pollution

Heavy smog around coal fire power plant
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Fossil fuels cause environmentally unsafe compounds to form in the atmosphere, depleting ozone levels and thus creating a spike in skin cancer rates. Burning coal releases sulfur oxide while the combustion of car engines and power plants gives off nitrogen oxides, which cause smog. Water and oxygen bonding with those sulfur and nitrogen oxides also causes acid rain, which damages plant life and food chains. Areas of high air pollution indexes have populations with higher rates of asthma than cleaner environments do.

Global Warming

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Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere. Carbon monoxide is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels and converted into carbon dioxide. As a result, the surface temperature of the earth is increasing drastically. The increase is enough to distress the ecological systems. Implications include severe weather, droughts, floods, drastic temperature changes, heat waves, and more severe wildfires. Food and water supplies are threatened. Tropical regions will expand, allowing disease-carrying insects to expand their ranges.

Rising Sea Levels

Melting fresh water iceberg in the ocean
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The global warming caused by the use of fossil fuels leads to rising sea levels. The melting of ice at the poles and in glaciers can cause oceans to rise, which impacts both ecosystems and human settlements in low-lying areas. Since ice reflects sunlight and water absorbs it, the melting of ice also creates a feedback loop, causing global warming to speed up.


About the Author

Monica Dorsey began her writing career in 2001, authoring career and college advice articles online and in print. Her work has appeared in publications such as "Philadelphia Metro,” "Collegebound Magazine” and PC&U publications.

Photo Credits

  • Kim Steele/Digital Vision/Getty Images