What Are the Effects of Non-Renewable Resources on Living Organisms?

Non-renewable energies are those that do not self-sustain naturally. Examples of non-renewable energies are coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike renewable energy sources like wind, water and sun--most of which are converted to power cleanly--the conversion of fossil fuels to usable energy can result in harmful emissions and its collection can disrupt local wildlife.

Smokestacks from a factory (Image: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Atmospheric Effects

The processing of fossil fuels emits harmful greenhouse gases into the air. These gases, primarily carbon dioxide, damage the ozone layer which protects us from the sun's radiation. The air pollution also negatively affects our respiratory health. A 2004 study concluded that pollution from coal-powered plants shortened nearly 24,000 lives a year in the U.S.

Acid Rain

Acid rain is created by the emission of sulfur and other chemicals into the atmosphere, often from the conversion of fossil fuels into electricity. It is corrosive to machinery and can disrupt local ecosystems. In 1991 the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) found that five percent of the lakes in New England were acidic and two percent could no longer support trout.

Land Pollution

Harmful ash is stored in solid waste containment areas which are prone to rupturing and causing havoc in the surrounding areas. In 2008 the containment area at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee ruptured releasing 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge which damaged houses in the surrounding areas and released harmful ash into the air.

Oil Spills

Oil spills are extremely damaging to nearby shores and ecosystems. They are also economically damaging. Analysts estimated British Petroleum's oil spill of 2010 would cost $2.5 billion in losses to the Louisiana fishing market alone. Florida was estimated to lose $3 billion in tourism income. Biologists worried that Sargassum algae, vital to hundreds of species of animals, would be killed due to the oil released in the Gulf of Mexico.

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