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Burning of Fossil Fuels

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BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS

NAME:-

NAME OF PROFESSOR:-

DATE:-

BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS

The burning of fossil fuels is the major contributor to human caused climate change. Once taken

out of the ground and burned , coal, oil and gas add to the amount of carbon cycling between the

atmosphere and the oceans, soil, rock and vegetation. On human time scales, this transfer is

irrevocable, once mined and burned, fossil carbon cannot be locked away safely underground

again in the form of new deposits of coal, oil and gas, or in the form of carbonate rock, for

millions of years. The transfer is also unsustainable: there is simply not enough “space” in

above-ground biological and geological systems to park safely the huge mass of carbon coming

out of the ground without carbon dioxide building up catastrophically in both the air and the

oceans.
At the most fundamental level, therefore, the climate solution revolves around initiating a new

pathway away from fossil fuel dependence. Industrialized societies locked in to fossil fuels need

to turn to structurally different, non-fossil energy, transport, agricultural and consumption

regimes within a few decades to minimize future dangers and costs. Infrastructure, trade, even

community structure will have to be reorganized, and state support shifted from fossil-fuelled

development toward popular movements constructing or defending low-carbon means of

livelihood and social life.

When fossil fuels are burned, essentially all of the carbon in the fuel chemically combines with the oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide. About 1.5 percent of the carbon in fossil fuels is emitted in the form of carbon monoxide. Typical hydrocarbon fuels contain 75 to 90 percent carbon by weight. Thus, for every ton of fossil fuel burned, at least three-quarters of a ton of carbon enter the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. (Energy Information Administration,
1993).
Since 1860, global annual emissions of fossil fuel carbon dioxide have increased from 0.1 billion metric tons to approximately 5.9 billion metric tons of carbon per year in 1988. The United
States is the world's largest source of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, emitting 1.3 billion metric tons in 1990.
Also, 20 percent of the methane emissions and more than half of all sulfur emissions on an annual basis are derived from the production, distribution or use of fossil fuels.
Substantial reductions in vehicle tailpipe emissions were achieved during the '70s and '80s largely through catalytic converters and improvements in fuel efficiency. The reduced emissions yielded less of a net impact due to the increases in vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled.
Changes in demographics and employment patterns during the '70s and '80s resulted in increases in vehicle ownership and vehicle miles traveled that are higher that the growth rates in population. As a result, net emissions reduction from mobile sources generally have been lower than originally anticipated despite significant technological advances. (EPA Transportation
Control Measures Information Documents, March 1992).

But the main official approach to the climate crisis worldwide – building a single, liquid global

carbon market worth trillions of dollars – is likely to make climate change worse, not only

exacerbating its social impacts but also generating negative impacts of its own.

The two basic instruments of carbon markets are cap and trade and offsets. A country’s

emissions cap is imposed by government regulation. Each industrial installation is assigned the

right to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gas. It is then allowed to buy additional pollution

rights if it needs them to meet its emissions target or to sell any rights that it doesn’t need.

Cap and trade thus gives incentives to those polluting industries most locked into fossil fuel use,

where most change must occur, to delay structural change. Instead of embarking on a lower-

carbon historical pathway, such industries can instead buy bankable pollution permits. Further

slowing down the shifts needed, all cap and trade systems instituted to date have awarded large

numbers of free pollution rights to the worst polluters in order to gain their support for the

system, making cap and trade a “polluter earns” system. Adding the market price of these free

assets to customers electricity bills, many electricity generators receiving such government

donations have then gone on to invest their windfall profits in more fossil fuel capacity. In many

cases, fossil-fuelled corporations have also managed to get their government to hand over more

pollution rights than they actually need to meet their legally-mandated targets. In the European

Union, the main winners from carbon trading have been, in addition to energy traders and hedge

funds, electricity generators fuelled by coal and nuclear fission, while the biggest losers have

been consumers.

At the same time that it undermines effective climate policy, cap and trade has also given rise to

distribution problems that could flare into destructive international political conflict. The reason

is that cap and trade, like other market systems, requires that the commodity being bought and

sold come with ownership rights. In order to work, therefore, cap and trade needs to privatize the

earth’s carbon-cycling capacity-its physical, chemical and biological ability to regulate its own

climate and keep it stable. By awarding its worst-polluting companies huge blocks of

transferable pollution permits, Northern governments have unilaterally decided to give them

transferable property rights to a disproportionate chunk of this global capacity-which, under a

more equitable system, would be made available to everyone equally.

Further undermining both the climatic efficacy and the political sustainability of carbon markets

are carbon offsets – the other pillar of carbon trading. Offsets provide the industrialized North

with a flow of additional emissions licenses originating from projects designed to “compensate”

for its fossil fuel emissions.

Examples include forestry schemes, hydroelectric dams or pollution-reducing fuel switches.

Such projects – located mainly in the global South (particularly China, India, Korea and Brazil

within the Kyoto Protocol market) – must show that the carbon savings they achieve are a result

of the finance they derive by selling emissions permits to big polluters. Under the Kyoto

Protocol, such offset projects were devised partly as a compromise between the desire of

wealthier industries and states to delay reducing their own emissions and the desire of Southern

state negotiators for some financial benefit from the international climate regime. Unfortunately,

it cannot be either proved or disproved that offsets are distinct from business as usual, or

climatically equivalent to reducing emissions at source. As a result, no means exist for

preventing skillful and well-paid carbon accountants from fabricating huge numbers of pollution

rights for sale to Northern fossil fuel polluters by claiming that various conventional industrial

projects are “saving carbon.” Carbon offsets thus wind up on the whole increasing fossil fuel

emissions rather than compensating for them. Even worse, accounting procedures for offset

projects set up perverse incentives for credit seekers (including host governments, credit buyers

and consultant validators) to bring about “business as usual” scenarios that are the highest

emitting possible, since the greater the emissions without the project, the higher the supposed

carbon savings that can be achieved with it, and thus the higher payoffs that can be demanded.

These obstacles to verifiable offset accounting may in the end spell as much trouble for

economic stability as they do for efforts to curb climate change. If the carbon market grows into

the world’s largest market, as often predicted, with massive participation on the part of hedge

funds, energy traders, private equity funds and large global investment banks, the collapse of a

sub-prime carbon bubble could have consequences comparable to those of the current financial

crisis.

Despite having been defended as a way of financing “green” development, most carbon offset

credits are, in addition, generated by projects that in fact reinforce fossil fuel dependence in the

South. If Northern industrial buyers of offset credits tend to be large-scale corporate greenhouse

gas producers such as Shell, BHP-Billiton, EDF, Endesa, Mitsubishi, Cargill, Nippon Steel,

ABN Amro and Chevron, so, too, carbon credit sellers tend to be corporations strongly

committed to continued use of fossil fuels, such as South Africa’s Sasol, India’s Tata Group,

ITC, Birla, Reliance and Jindal, and Korea’s Hu-Chems Fine Chemical. It is such well-financed

companies-and not green innovators or local communities developing low-carbon ways of life-

that are best able to navigate the financial and bureaucratic requirements involved in registering

offsets for the Kyoto Protocol carbon market. These firms are thus able to use carbon trading not

as a way of propelling their countries away from fossil dependence, but, typically, as a means for

topping up finance for environmentally and socially-damaging projects to which they are already

committed and which are more often than not in sunset industry sectors. The principal economic

incentives offset trading provides are not for technological or social innovators to seek

transitions to low-carbon futures, but rather for carbon consultants and policymakers to find or

invent new “emissions reduction equivalents” that can be used to manufacture substantial blocks

of cheap carbon credits for sale to conventional industries or financial speculators. In shoring up

business as usual in this way, carbon trading thus works to the disadvantage of many Southern

communities whose land, water and air are usurped by the private sector for “climate reasons”.

REFERENCES

ESRL Web Team (14 January 2008). "Trends in carbon dioxide". Esrl.noaa.gov. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2010). "Climate Change Indicators in the United States". EPA. Figure 2. Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector, 1990–2005.
Archer, David (2009). "Atmospheric lifetime of fossil fuel carbon dioxide". Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37. pp. 117–134.
Bader, N. and Bleichwitz, R. (2009). "Measuring urban greenhouse gas emissions: The challenge of comparability. ''S.A.P.I.EN.S.'' '''2''' (3)". Sapiens.revues.org. Retrieved 2011-09-11. IEA (2007). World energy outlook 2007 edition – China and India insights. International Energy Agency (IEA), Head of Communication and Information Office, 9 rue de la Fédération, 75739 Paris Cedex 15, France. p. 600.
Lerner & K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth (2006). "Environmental issues: essential primary sources". Thomson Gale. Retrieved 11 September 2006.…...

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