What are Fossil Fuels?
Imagine a really, really long time ago, there were lots of plants and tiny sea creatures living on Earth. When they died, their remains got buried under the ground. Over millions of years, these leftovers went through some special processes that turned them into something valuable—fossil fuels.
Think of coal as a rock that comes from ancient plants. It’s like a time capsule from when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. You can find black or brownish-black coal, and it’s mostly made of carbon. There’s some other stuff in there too, like hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Now, picture those tiny sea creatures turning into a gooey mixture called crude oil. It happened because of heat and pressure deep underground. This gooey stuff can be refined into different fuels and things we use every day.
Natural gas is like a cousin of oil. It’s mostly made of methane and is found in pockets underground. Sometimes, it hangs out with oil. You can’t see or smell it, but it’s a handy gas we use for heating, making electricity, and creating some cool chemicals.
For a really long time, we’ve been using these fossil fuels to power our world—running cars, making electricity, and keeping our homes warm. But here’s the catch: burning them releases something called carbon dioxide into the air, and that’s not great for our planet. It’s like putting on too many blankets; the Earth gets too warm.
Now, smart people are looking for better ways to get our energy. They’re turning to things like sunlight, wind, and water power—cleaner and friendlier options that won’t make our planet too toasty.
The United Nations Environment Programme, along with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), has released an evaluation outlining the advantages for both the climate and health, titled “The Imperative of Cutting Methane from Fossil Fuels”.
What CCAC Does:
- The CCAC, formed in 2012, is the only international group that works to reduce pollutants like methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons. These pollutants cause both climate change and air pollution.
Why Methane Matters:
- Methane is a powerful pollutant responsible for about 30% of the Earth getting warmer since the Industrial Revolution.
- Fossil fuel operations (like using oil and gas) are the second biggest source of human-made methane emissions. Reductions are crucial to limit temperature rise and achieve climate goals.
Key Findings from the Report:
- Rapid cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuels, alongside carbon dioxide reductions, are crucial to achieve global climate goals.
- If we take specific actions to reduce methane from fossil fuels, we could prevent the Earth from warming by 0.1°C by 2050.
- Without doing anything about methane, the Earth’s average temperature could increase by more than 1.6°C by 2050.
Benefits of Methane Mitigation by 2050:
- Acting on methane could prevent nearly 1 million premature deaths caused by ozone exposure.
- It could also avoid 90 million tons of crop losses (wheat, rice, soy, maize) due to changes in climate and ozone.
- Additionally, it might save about 85 billion work hours by reducing exposure to extreme heat.
Net Zero Emissions Scenario:
- Achieving net-zero emissions requires a significant reduction in fossil fuel use.
- Existing clean energy scale-up alone is insufficient to cut methane emissions at the necessary pace.
- Targeted actions are vital to prevent irreversible climate tipping points.
Scale of Methane Emissions:
- Every year, about 580 million tons of methane are released globally. Human activities, like managing waste and farming, contribute 60% of this.
Methane’s Impact on Global Warming:
- Methane is a greenhouse gas responsible for 30% of global warming. It’s the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide.
In simple terms, the report is saying that taking action to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuels is crucial. If we don’t, the Earth could get much warmer, causing serious problems for our health, agriculture, and work conditions. The report emphasizes the significant benefits of targeted methane reduction in preventing these issues.