Fossil Fuel Exploitation

The observations that have lead to this research include, the increase of pollution, habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation. To monitor these observations, companies like Planet Labs launch satellites into space to take pictures of Earth every day, and monitor CO2 and other harmful gases using specific cameras and detectors on Earth. Many companies fund Plant Labs to send them the data to evaluate and plan on based on what they see. The article concluded that humans, as a society are dependent on fossil fuels, gas, oil, and coal mines, as well as pipelines and wells are not only harmful when exploited, but also when they are just surveyed or explored.

For the data collected, the hypothesis was that exploiting land and it’s resources, even simply surveying the land and exploring it, harms the species and biodiversity of the ecosystems in the area. The graphs we have included show all the oil and gas fields (exploited, explored, even just surveyed for future and near-future use) that are within a P.A (Protected Area) and/or KBA (Key Biodiversity Area). These PAs were put in place where biodiversity had been impacted severely and species have been forced to be taken into captivity (if possible) to be repopulated, if not extinct. In the United States, there is an overabundance of wells and pipelines.

The first picture shows richness (number of species in a location), and rarity (how uniquely importance the land is for the occupants) The second graph (attached to the first) shows the location of well sites per 25 km (2500 km-2), which we included to show how they interact with the rarity and richness of the environment. The last graph shows the gas and oil sites that are currently exploited, are near-future and future sites compared to the Protect areas of the world. The larger the dot, the larger the extraction area. The darker the dot, the more density overlapping the protected area or key biodiversity area. This is showing that there are more than 190,000 protected areas in the world and over 12,000 key biodiversity areas in the world, both are shown in gray on this map.

In the conclusion of the article, a very good point was made that I did not think of — “political and economic drivers may alter the extent of these activities”. Accounting for future-exploitation, the Paris Agreement of December 2015 (“includes the intent to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C (Hulme, 2016)”, there was even a clause that suggests that fossil fuel demand decreases by 85% by 2040 (IEA 2014), which reduces the risk of hydrocarbon extraction and biodiversity impacts greatly. Most of the scenarios played out assume that us, as a society, maintain reliance on fossil fuels. Infrastructure currently is cited on locations of higher biodiversity than those without infrastructure; those without infrastructure were found to take more species into custody (have to repopulate them, or they were lost to extinction) than those with infrastructure. [This includes Africa, Asia Pacific and LAC]

Results given in the article are in plans to “develop new approaches to safeguarding areas of importance for biodiversity” (Wiley, 2014) Future studies will involve that of government, political and economical drivers to follow their influence on all key factors and that of the need for fossil fuels.

Regulating the fossil fuel exploitation successfully is a single step in the direction of reducing habitat loss (See graph right). The gray areas are protect areas, dark, large dots are exploited, near-future, or future sites that are densely overreaching within the protected areas. Species that are within these protected areas have been reduced by an invasive species — us. Other regulations, i,e, making “protected areas”, have failed and/or are not enforced strictly, have loopholes, etc.

Over forty species gone extinct in 2018, over the passed half-billion years, we have reached 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural extinction rate of one to five species every year. (Center for Biological Diversity).

References:

  1. Harfoot, M. B. J., Tittensor, D. P., Knight, S., Arnell, A. P., Blyth, S., Brooks, S.,
  2. Burgess, N. D. (2018). Present and future biodiversity risks from fossil fuel exploitation. Conservation Letters, 11(4), 1. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12448