Burning of Fossil Fuels: The Biggest Cause for Climate Change

Climate change has been among the biggest worries of the generational sustainability in the recent past. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased at an alarming rate, leading to the global warming. Human activities have been among the main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases and have highly contributed to the ongoing calamity (Halmann & Steinberg, 1999).

The leading greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. It is a naturally occurring gas, but its increase in the atmosphere has led to an atmospheric imbalance. The gas level in the atmosphere has risen to a harmful level, and the trend is increasing with every passing day. This has resulted from a number of human’s activities that also include burning of the fossil fuels (Anonymous, 2007).

Sources of Carbon Dioxide

There are different ways that human beings use the fossil fuels to release energy, which are accompanied by the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Halmann & Steinberg (1999) stated some of the ways that fossil fuels lead to the release of carbon dioxide.

Electricity Use

Fossil fuels are among the leading sources of energy in the world. In order to generate electricity, fossil fuels are combusted, and in the process carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere. In the US, for instance, electricity production led to the 40% of the total emissions of carbon dioxide, while leading to the release of their greenhouse emissions (Lewis & Burd-Sharps, 2010).


Most of the automobiles in the world use fossil fuels. Once they combust, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Transport accounts for 26% of the US total greenhouse emissions and 31% of its carbon dioxide release (Lewis & Burd-Sharps, 2010). It includes water, air and land transport.

Industrial Emissions

Most industries in the world obtain their energy from burning fossil fuels to enhance their operations. Further, other processes within the industries lead to the release of carbon dioxide. A good example is the cement production as well as some metal productions such as steel and iron. Industries accounted for 20% of the US total greenhouse emissions in 2010.

From the above processes, the movement of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been tampered with and has taken a new direction. Though the natural system has a mechanism of regulating its carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the increased levels have resulted to an irregular pattern of elimination of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (Lewis. & Burd-Sharps 2010). Excess carbon dioxide is taken up by organisms in a natural setting, thus reducing the effects of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The human activities highlighted above have, however, together with other human related factors such as deforestation, increased the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to a level where the organisms cannot take it up. Therefore, the gas molecules persist in the atmosphere and their greenhouse nature has resulted to the climate change. Overreliance on fossil fuels in both small and large scale energy requirements among the world population has escalated the problem since more of carbon dioxide is being released to the atmosphere (Anonymous, 2007). To make the matters worse, increased deforestation has led to a partial destruction of the natural carbon regulation cycle, since forests have been declared carbon sinks due to their ability to absorb the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Carbon Dioxide as a Greenhouse Gas

Visible light from the sun easily penetrates into the earth’s atmosphere and to the earth’s surface. Once the light hits the surface, some of it is absorbed, while another significant percentage of the energy is reflected back to space (Halmann & Steinberg, 1999). Some of the reflected energy is, however, trapped into the atmosphere in the form of infra-red rays. The main gases responsible for trapping the infrared rays are water vapor (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2), which are known as greenhouse gases. Continued studies since the 18th century have closely related the rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere with the rise in the atmospheric temperatures. Scientists went back to 400 years back and discovered that the temperatures and  the CO2 levels were much lower than what we have today (Anonymous, 2007). They therefore drew adirect relationship between CO2 and atmospheric temperatures. These scientists determined that carbon dioxide could trap infra-red rays in between its atoms. It has one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms.


Carbon dioxide is an important gas in the atmosphere due to its numerous uses to many organisms. There exists a natural cycle that regulates its levels in the atmosphere, hence its positive contribution to organisms. The naturally regulating cycles keep carbon dioxide levels manageable and un-harmful to the atmosphere and the organisms. When more gas is introduced into the atmosphere without the necessary regulatory measures, it becomes unmanageable by the natural means and its greenhouse nature is felt; thus, it eventually leads to the global warming. It is therefore true to declare that human activities are among the leading causes of climate change by increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while reducing the organisms that regulate its levels through deforestation. Thus, it is recommended that the best way to reduce the rate of global warming is by controlling human activities that lead to the release of carbon dioxide. Combustion of fossil fuel is the leading source of carbon dioxide release and use of alternative sources of energy that do not require fossil fuel would go a long way in reducing the rate of climate change.

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