Fossil fuels is the name given to oil, gas and coal, because they were created over millions of years by organic matter rotting, then fossilising, in special ways under the ground. Today, fossil fuels are used extensively which creates problems for now and the future.
The trouble with digging them back up and burning them is that this releases lots of climate changing gasses, such as CO2 and sulphur, which were built up and stored safely under the earth over many years, but now are being released into the atmosphere all at once.
Burning trees actually adds only a tiny amount of CO2 overall to the environment, because it only releases carbon it has stored during its lifetime. However, when we burn coal, oil and peat, we release massive amounts of CO2 from these fuels which had been stored in the earth millions of years ago, so it has a much bigger impact on our environment.
The main issue with fossil fuels is greenhouse gases being released, but sulphur and nitrogen oxide are also released which bonds with the water in clouds to make acid rain. Acid rain destroys vast areas of trees, removing our most effective carbon sinks. Stone statues and monuments that have been around for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years – ancient Greek statues in Athens which have lasted more than a thousand years, are being damaged as acid rain dissolves their delicate detail. Greenhouse gases act like insulation in the atmosphere, holding more and more heat inside of it which is gradually changing the world's climate.
Fossil fuel facts
• Fossil fuels are non-renewable because they are created in nature so slowly. We are using fossil fuels up 100,000 times faster than they are being made. Being dependent on them is not a good idea because they are likely to run out in our own lifetimes.
• Fossil fuels supply around 90% of the world's energy at the moment.
• Fossil fuels are the world's biggest single contributor to global warming.
• Burning fossil fuels in cars and vans releases things like lead and carbon monoxide into the air, which we then breathe in.
This can cause a lot of different health problems such as asthma, lowered IQ and eye problems. British scientists recently found that being outside in a city for the day is the same as smoking at least 10 cigarettes, often more. A day in Oxford was worked out to equal more than 61! It's the same for cities all over the world.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that we'd be better off not using fossil fuels. However, apart from the production of plastics, drugs, fertilisers, toiletries, etc, a huge amount of the world's transport, business links and industry is built on fossil fuels, so it's not something that can be done straight away but surely it is time to make changes and fast!
We can all do something as individuals to make a difference, after all there are almost 7 billion of us on this planet, that’s got to make a HUGE difference. We have to all think radically about how to reduce the amount of energy we use as well as changing how we travel and what and how much we consume. Many people and governments have got rich on the fossil fuel industries and are possibly more than a bit reluctant to help the world need less, so it helps to make your voice heard in the clamour for change – that way they won't be able to ignore the need for new ways of doing things. As young people, we are the ones who will have to live with these decisions for years to come, so let's make a difference now.