Most greenhouse gases originate from the burning of fossil fuels for energy. Fossil fuel comes from organic matter decomposed and compressed by heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust. This organic matter from animals and plants forms into coal, natural gas and oil, which we extract for use.
The inter-governmental panel on climate change warns that fossil fuel emissions must be halved within 11 years if global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Coal is a fossil fuel with different carbon levels based on how it was formed. The carbon is what gives us the energy we need, so the higher the carbon content the better. A longer period of compression creates a higher amount of carbon. Anthracite, a type of coal, is believed to be about 300 million years old.
Coal-fired power stations need huge amounts of fuel, which means trainloads of coal need to feed it constantly. To cope with changing demands for power, the station needs reserves, therefore, a large area next to a power station is covered with piles of coal.
Oil, another fossil fuel, is made up of one-celled sea plants and animals called plankton. It is available deep in the earth and has to be drilled and pumped back to the surface using suction. Oil is turned into petrol, diesel, tar etc. and chemicals that make plastics.
Anywhere you find oil, you will find natural gas. It’s highly flammable and is used for cooking, heating and making electricity. It’s cleaner than oil or coal and burns hotter as well, so it produces more electricity.