Concerns about climate change and the role of fossil fuel use

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The greenhouse effect, the ability of certain gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor to effectively trap some of the reemission of solar energy by the planet, is a necessary component to life on Earth; without the greenhouse effect, the planet would be too cold to support life. However, human activities are increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases, resulting in concerns about warming of the earth by 1-5°C over the next century. Recent increases in global averaged temperature over the last decade already appear to be outside the normal variability of temperature changes for the last thousand years. A number of different analyses strongly suggest that this temperature increase is resulting from the increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, thus lending credence to the concerns about much larger changes in climate being predicted for the coming decades. It is this evidence that led the international scientific community through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to conclude (after a discussion of the remaining uncertainties) "Nonetheless, the balance of the evidence suggests a human influence on global climate". More recent findings have further strengthened this conclusion. Computer-based models of the complex processes affecting the carbon cycle have implicated the burning of fossil fuels as a major factor in the past increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide. These models also suggest that, without major policy or technology changes, future concentrations of CO2 will continue to increase largely as a result of fossil fuel burning. This paper reviews the current understanding of the concerns about climate change and the role being played by fossil fuel use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-119
Number of pages21
JournalFuel Processing Technology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 2001


  • Climate change
  • Greenhouse effect
  • Greenhouse gases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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