Fossil fuel is a natural resource of power made from the remains of dead plants and animals. It is a major source of global energy and gives us the ability to power our daily lives. However, whilst utilizing fossil fuel energy is useful, it is a mass contributor to climate change.
What is fossil fuel power?
Fossil fuel energy includes a large list of different sources that can used as power. In energy statistics1, coal, manufactured gases, peat, shale and oil sands, oil and natural gases all considered part of this group.
Major fossil fuel industries profit from producing and selling these as products on a global scale. Examples include the likes of BP in the United States2 who dominate the petroleum industry. The economic stance is one that businesses and politicians sometimes take.
For example, at the 2014 Canada Europe Energy Summit3, the UK’s Energy Minister Matt Hancock commented on fossil fuels. He said4, “Our aim is to maximise economic recovery of our hydrocarbon reserves, to boost growth, energy security, and jobs.”
Fossil fuel companies have come under criticism for their stance and impact on climate change. Since 1965, 20 companies have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide5. This hasn’t gone unnoticed as many protest against them.
Carbon emissions and climate change
Scientists recognise that the burning of fossil fuels over last century has increased the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Estimates suggest that roughly 80% of all manmade carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions originate from fossil fuels combustion.
The IPCC recognises6 that fossil fuel emissions must be halved by 2030 if we are to achieve targets of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. However, research by the UN Environment Programme shows we are not on track to meet this. More needs to be done to divest and move away from fossil fuel power. Renewables present an alternative.
Are there alternatives to fossil fuel power?
As a result of our fossil fuel use over the last century and the environmental impact it has had, there is a need for alternatives. We can’t continue on the same path and expect to meet our climate change goals. Furthermore, fossil fuel resources will run out as they are finite.
Renewable energy systems are a possible alternative as they have a limited negative environmental impact compared to fossil fuel power. Examples include wind, solar power, biomass, hydroelectricity, and geothermal.
Some research says renewables aren’t ready, but others are more optimistic7. Predictions suggest the solar surge will come at the cost of coal, currently the largest fossil fuel source of carbon emissions. There are also suggestions that electric production will curb the demand for oil. Yet whilst there are drawbacks, renewables are a way of moving away from fossil fuel power.