When it comes to the negotiation on the Earth’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuels are right in the heart of the arguments. Scientists are unanimous on the key role of the greenhouse effect as the main mechanism leading to global warming.
The mechanism is simple: almost half of the solar radiation that reaches Earth bounces back towards space. Some atmospheric gases, called greenhouse gases (GHG) absorb this radiation and re-emit it in all directions, including the surface of the Earth.
This is a natural process and can heat up the Earth’s temperature by up to 18°. However, the rapidly increasing concentrations of GHGs during the last 50 years cause global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that annual GHG emissions will double in the next 50 to 100 years. GHG emissions can be naturally occurring or anthropogenically, that is to say related to human activity.
Water vapor, naturally, occurs through the water cycle – representing around 70% of GHG emissions. Its short lifetime in the atmosphere (approximately 10 days) explains the formation of fog or low clouds.
The problem is different for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halocarbons (HFCs, CFCs, PFCs) or ozone (O3), which are gases that don’t disappear that quickly (between 20 years and 50 000 years) and the majority of their emissions is of human origin.
With a lifetime in the atmosphere of over 100 years, CO2 alone is responsible for 60% of anthropogenic GHG emissions. 70 to 90% of CO2 emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels, and 10 to 30% are from deforestation.
Fossil fuels are unfortunately still the main cause of GHG emissions and thus, there is a continuous increase in the temperature of the Earth’s surface since the end of 19th century.
In the major industrial countries, they provide most of the energy required for the manufacture of consumer goods which means an important factor for their economic and strategic sectors! The extensive use of fossil fuels particularly by powerful nations like US, China and Russia will create more geographical tensions in the world. We can see it clearly right now in Iraq and soon in Syria and so on.
With the hunger of humanity for fossil fuels, nothing seems to stop such a devastating industry, apart from investing in renewable energy and making it our top priority.
This is a guest post written by Mohammed Qasserras.
Mohammed is an academic, trainer and journalist from Morocco. He is interested in climate change, conflict resolution and youths. He has initiated a number of sustainable projects related to climate change, youths and peace.