Read and Response 1: Fossil Fuels in Africa

I personally agree with the main point that the article “Why Africa Needs Fossil Fuels” advocates. Coal, oil, and other fossil fuels are a crucial part of the process of industrialization. Not one industrialized country in the world today skipped this stage of industrial development and went straight to renewable, low-carbon-emission energy. Every country utilized cheap fossil fuels to grow their economy and move into a prosperous postindustrial era. Africans should not be forced into perpetual poverty due to the mistakes of the rest of the planet’s citizens.

While climate change is doubtlessly one of the leading issues facing mankind today, poverty remains an omnipresent challenge for the human race to overcome. Fossil fuels can help to combat poverty, however. China, as mentioned in the article, is perhaps the best example of this. Since 1981, China’s carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 500%. However, in this same period, poverty in China has fallen to less than 10% from the 1981 level of 89%. While China’s timeframe for industrialization and a decrease in poverty is un-replicable, Africa—especially sub-Saharan Africa, which suffers from a 42.7% poverty rate—could undoubtedly benefit from an increased usage of fossil fuels.

The article also addresses the specific projected costs associated with the usage of fossil fuels in Africa. Burning more fossil fuels will do approximately $170 billion worth of damage. However, this same process will bring in economic benefits in excess of $8.4 trillion. The article also mentions that on a personal level, each African that gains access to electricity will be about $1000 better off by 2040.

While the article addresses the projected renewable energy usage in 25 years among signatories at the Paris climate change conference, as well as the additional carbon dioxide that will be released into the atmosphere should Africa utilize more fossil fuels over that same timespan, it leaves out one point that I feel could make the argument stronger. The corresponding drop in fossil fuel usage globally should lead to a significantly lower level of carbon dioxide. Even using current carbon dioxide emission levels in the United States compared to the expected total carbon emissions that an increase of fossil fuel usage in Africa over the next 25 years is helpful. The United States emits approximately 5.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly. The total projected emissions of sub-Saharan Africa in the next 25 years, under the plan espoused in the article, is 4 billion tons.

U.S. Yearly Carbon Emissions

U.S. Yearly Carbon Emissions From: http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html

The issues raised in this article cannot be ignored. Our planet may be endangered by climate change, but this does not mean that we can sit idly by and deny 600 million Africans access to electricity and, thereby, the associated economic benefits. The decreased levels of carbon dioxide emissions in the industrialized world will provide room for this increase in emissions. And let’s face it, if we do not change our own habits and abide by the agreements made at Paris, it will not matter so much what happens in Africa.

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