Do the risks of our continued use of fossil fuels at the current levels outweigh the benefits?

Essay by musicfreak120High School, 11th gradeA+, July 2004

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The risks of using fossil fuels, such as hydrocarbons and petrochemicals at the current levels are detrimental and irreversible to the environment and society as a whole. Although fossil fuels provides the world with electricity, fuel for transportation and other daily uses; there are plenty of environmental downfalls as a result of this consumption including global climate change, acid rain, and ozone problems.

The combustion of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. This emission of CO2 is a contributor of global warming as it traps heat energy within the atmosphere. This induces numerous environmental problems: polar ice cap melting results in an elevation of sea levels which may cause more flooding; the warm weather will affect global food production; and the possible extinction of organisms that are unable to cope and adapt to the climate change which creates an imbalance in the world's ecosystem.

Another problem is the formation of acid rain due to the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion.

These byproducts form sulfuric acid and nitric acid and eventually reach the Earth's surface by precipitation. The effects of acid rain include soil and plant degradation, depleted life in lakes and streams - both resulting in an imbalance in the ecosystem. Being at the top of the food chain, this imbalance in nature indirectly, but greatly affects the survival of mankind.

Aside from forming nitric acid, nitrogen oxide, a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion can form Ozone. Ozone near the ground can cause a number of health problems. For people who have asthma, this increase in O3 can cause more frequent asthma attacks and may cause sore throats, coughs, and breathing difficulty and may even lead to premature death from the damage in lung cells and lung tissue. Other studies have shown that ozone can make people...