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By Karl Reitz

Featured photo: Courtesy of Jan Antonin Kolar/Unsplash

Fossil fuels have transformed the lives of humans since the beginning of the industrial revolution. They have given us incredible mobility, technological achievements, comfortable homes and products from around the world.

We have become so used to their benefits that it is hard to imagine being without them.

However, there will come a time when humanity will have to do without fossil fuels.

There is a reason fossil fuels are often called non-renewables. Their supply is limited. How humanity deals with the end of fossil fuels leads to drastically different futures. Do we use them up until they are gone, or do we leave substantial reserves in the ground?

Humans could decide that we should use fossil fuels until the day when the cost of retrieving them is larger than the profit that would be derived from their sale. Unfortunately, the result would be a huge increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a dramatic increase in global temperatures.

Some estimates of the increase range as high as 20ºC. If this were to happen, most glaciers would melt, the sea level would rise by hundreds of feet, much of the Earth would be unlivable, and a large proportion of the planet’s species would go extinct.

We can only imagine a world in which humanity transitions away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.

It would be a world in which the air we breathe is free of pollutants, the noise of combustion engines is gone, cities are walkable and resemble forests with trees everywhere, and public transportation is clean and easy to use.

Imagine a world where energy is plentiful and its price independent of events halfway around the world. A world where communities everywhere control their own energy sources instead of being held hostage by corrupt corporations and countries.

Imagine an energy supply that will last as long as the sun shines and the wind blows.

Which scenario would you prefer for your children and grandchildren? I believe that most of us would choose the second. It will take effort and commitment, since powerful forces benefit from the status quo.

Our forefathers and mothers had a vision of democracy and freedom that has now spread around the world. I am confident that we will again take a stand for a better world.

Karl Reitz, PH.D., is an environmental science educator, a member of the South Orange County Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education/Lobby, and a retired professor of social sciences from Chapman University.

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comments (2)

  • I’m Saddened by Honest opinions like Karl’s. He actually believes what he is saying is possible.
    It shows the complete disconnect selfish 1-sided Philosophers (brought to us by our government), have with reality.
    There are so many points to make here I will use a few.
    Of course, we need to dream about what could be. We need real science (not Philosophy) to bring those dreams to fruition.
    We are here today with our amazing abilities and technology because of Fossil Fuels.
    Look at the carbon footprint of all the countries in the world. We are not near the top polluters. And when we go green, They will not! They will continue, as they will see the weakness of the United States, giving them the upper hand on Communism. ( GLOBALLY). There is a good reason why America is Known Globally as the FREE world. We are hated by leaders everywhere because of it. Our Democracy will be destroyed by Going Green. It’s not a choice or a freedom. it is a demand to follow and do as you’re told. Our existing President and others like minded have removed morality, respect, discipline, responsibility, character, common sense, freedom and lifelong fundamental foundations from society to indoctrinate evil, selfish, immoral ignorant science illiterate, and hate based policies. For the USA to go green will require strip mining other countries completely destroying their lives as they know it in order to build our batteries and solar panels.
    Every 600 years or so the climate changes. Why does it take so long between change?
    The earth’s surface is 75% covered by water. 25% by land. A smaller percent is actually inhabited by humans. Have you ever been in the Ocean 1000’s of miles from land? Weather isn’t dictated by humans. OH, AND DON’T FORGET! IF YOU WANT THE TRUTH, READ THE HOLY BIBLE.THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE! Good luck people, your life depends on it.

    • We are not “near the top polluters,” we are THE top polluter.

      1. The United States
      The U.S. is the largest emitter of CO2, with approximately 416,738 metric tons of total carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The largest sources of CO2 emissions in the U.S. came from transportation, industry, and power generation in 2020. Even though the U.S. government undertook significant efforts to reduce the reliance on coal for electricity generation, the country has become a major producer of crude oil.

      I’m betting the scientists know what they are talking about.

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