Burning of Fossil Fuels

by Alex Smith

Using fuel smartly and efficiently

Using fuel smartly and efficiently

When you burn fossil fuels it creates greenhouse gases, which as you know, trap the heat the sun gives off on earth. Thus global warming :)

Barry's Response - Alex, that's the basic formula. Here's the original.

It's all about capture and feedback. Let's start with equilibrium 1. It could be a representation of how things are right now.
Solar radiation (insolation) reaches the earth at this point. Some of it hits the ground, some gets reflected off the clouds and oceans, and some gets absorbed by the atmosphere and oceans. We get the benefit of the part not reflected (and kept)...plants grow, water evaporates, rain falls.

We'd boil up pretty soon if none of that left. That's right. Exiting longwave radiation. A lot of that leaves the earth/atmosphere system; some is reflected back down by clouds; some is absorbed by the atmosphere (greenhouse effect).

It's getting complicated. Especially if you wanted to track these energy flows with a calculator.

After many iterations and corrections, balance is achieved, roughly. We call that equilibrium, and the temperature doesn't change much day-to-day or year-to-year.

If something upsets that balance, what happens? If more of that exiting radiation was consistently absorbed by the atmosphere, we'd see a bigger greenhouse effect. We're going to switch to a new balance now...one where we need a higher surface temperature (i.e., global warming) so more longwave radiation leaves in the first place to compensate for the increased absorption and still get about the same amount of incoming energy as leaving. Then we have equilibrium 2.

It's true there's a new equilibrium every second or so, but the change so tiny it's not worth dealing with individually. We focus on long-term trends instead. That's why changes in the greenhouse effect have us concerned. This is oversimplified, but it helps us understand.

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Yet we continue to need these substances...

It is important to acknowledge that the upside of burning fossil fuels represents a particular viewpoint and is subject to debate.

There are several benefits to using these fuels:

- Fuel Production: Coal, oil, and natural gas for instance have historically played a big role in meeting global energy needs. Energy from them has fueled economic growth, technological advancements, and improved living standards.

- Fuels contribute a lot to job creation and economic development in many regions. By supporting various sectors, like extraction, transportation, refining, and distribution, it stimulates economic activity and creates jobs.

- Fossil fuels have been relatively accessible and affordable, especially in areas with underdeveloped or expensive alternative energy infrastructure. As a result, industries, businesses, and households have been able to meet their energy needs.

- They are efficient at storing and transporting energy because of their high energy density. Applications such as aviation, long-distance transportation, and electricity generation have benefited from this characteristic.

A conservative commentator might emphasize these points and argue fossil fuels drive economic growth, support jobs, and provide affordable energy. She might argue that fossil fuels have fueled innovation, technological progress, and energy independence. Additionally, she might argue that transitioning away from fossil fuels needs to be done cautiously to prevent economic disruptions. These are all things to consider.

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Thank you to my research and writing assistants, ChatGPT and WordTune, as well as Wombo and others for the images.

GPT-4, OpenAI's large-scale language generation model (and others provided by Google and Meta), helped generate this text.  As soon as draft language is generated, the author reviews, edits, and revises it to their own liking and is responsible for the content.