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The Environmental Effects of Coal and Oil Use, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Environmentalists are continuing to discover the ways in which humans, animals, and plants are being affected by the continued use of nonrenewable energy sources; such as coal and oil. The governments of several countries are also becoming increasingly aware of the effects of nonrenewable energy sources on the environment. There are several complications that slow the creation and implementation of government policies regulating the use of nonrenewable energy sources. One of the most prominent issues is that much of modern technology has not yet caught up with the speed in which humans are using these resources. Automobiles, airplanes, boats, and other transportation methods all use fossil fuels of some sort. Without these vehicles, much of the world’s civilization would collapse. Automobile makers are creating hybrid cars and the electric car has already been invented. However, access to these vehicles is very limited due to their high cost and so a very small fraction of the world’s population owns such vehicles.

Despite these challenges, scientists are working towards new and innovative solutions which will slowly wean humans off of their dependency on nonrenewable resources. Environmentalists, geologists, and chemists all work together to find new materials which can be used to fuel the vehicles of tomorrow. The hybrid car is only one step towards the ultimate goal of independence from nonrenewable energy resources. However, it was an important first step and a great achievement for modern science and for the environment.

One of the effects of excessive oil use is acid precipitation or acid rain. Acid rain is the result of nitrogen and sulfur oxides which give a mixture of nitric, sulfurous, and sulfuric acids. Acid precipitation has become a dangerous threat in several regions of the world. It can reduce the pH of bodies of freshwater to below six. This process releases aluminum ion that kills marine wildlife. (Duffus & Worth, n.d.)

Acid rain also has several other environmental consequences. It destroys plants, reduces the amount of available drinking water for humans and animals in the various regions it affects, and causes other significant problems. While most research on acid rain in the United States and Europe has focused on sulfur, it is important to note all compounds that are found in acid rain. (Likens & Buso, 1996)

“Current measurements show that precipitation falling in the northeastern United States is significantly more acidic than precipitation elsewhere in the United States.” (Boudie, 1997) This data clearly demonstrates that there is a vastly different level of pH in the water and soil in the northeastern United States then throughout the rest of the country. While scientists are still not entirely clear what has caused this, they are able to get a general idea of some of the underlying factors contributing to the severity of acid rain.

The earth has been slowly rising in temperature for over a century. “Global warming is largely thought to be increasing levels of carbon dioxide and water vapor into the atmosphere caused by large-scale burning of fossil fuels. The carbon dioxide and water vapor permit radiation from the sun to heat the earth but prevent a loss of heat, in the form of infrared radiation”. Increasing temperature of the Earth is changing the climate around the world. (Duffus & Worth, n.d.)

Global warming affects everyone and everything on earth. The CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels are depleting the ozone layer piece by piece. Additionally, any chemicals, substances, or compounds affect people. For example, air, soil, surface water, and groundwater all have the potential to be contaminated and are all affected by the greenhouse gases. Air affects crops, cattle, and milk. Soil affects crops and cattle. Surface water affects fish and drinking water. Groundwater affects surface water, fish, and ultimately people. (Duffus & Worth, n.d., p. 21)

The use of coal and oil has a negative impact on soil and freshwater supplies. It also has a significant impact on the world’s oceans. CO2 emissions from cars, aircraft, and boats all contribute to the greenhouse effect. Rising temperatures on Earth contribute to unusually long summers and shorter winters in the Northern Hemisphere. The rising temperatures of the ocean also have the potential to devastate marine wildlife on a global scale. The depletion of the ozone layer can contribute to several harmful effects on plants, such as plants not growing correctly. Without the protection of the entire ozone layer, humans may be more likely to develop skin cancer from the UV rays of the sun.

World leaders are working together to create solutions to the problem of global warming. While small steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels have been taken, it is likely that it will take drastic changes to replenish the damage that has been done to the earth.

Works Cited

Duffus, John , and  Howard  Worth. “Environmental Toxicology.” IUPAC Educators’ Resource Material 1 (0): 1-21. Print.

Goudie, Andrew S.. The Human Impact Reader: Readings and Case Studies (Blackwell Readers on the Natural Environment). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997. Print.

Likens, G.E., D.C.  Buso, and C.T.  Driscoll . “Long-term Effects of Acid Rain: Response and Recovery to a Forest Eco-system.” Science 272.5259 (1996): 244-246. Print.

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