I have to ask scientists one simple question: Where did all the carbon in these fuels come from to begin with? I'm not a scientist but I am a thinker and the question seems relevant.
While we are busy arguing about where the carbon is going and what it is doing to the global climate it may be helpful to go back to the beginning to understand the problem.
First: Where does oil come from?
From The Paleontological Research Institute:
In spite of some popular misconceptions, oil doesn't come from dead dinosaurs. In fact, most scientists agree that oil comes from creatures the size of a pinhead.
These one-celled creatures, known as diatoms, aren't really plants, but share one very important characteristic with them - they take light from the sun and convert it into energy. (Humans can't do this - this is why you have to eat your veggies!)
Diatoms float in the top few meters of the oceans (and lakes, for that matter - which is part of the reason why not ALL oil comes from ocean deposits!) and also happen to be a major source of food for many forms of ocean swimmers.
Their skeletons are chemically very similar to sand - in fact, they are made of the same material (silica). Diatoms produce a kind of oil by themselves - both to store chemical energy from photosynthesis and to increase their ability to float. But this small amount of oil still needs to become concentrated and mature before it can be taken from the ground and used as fuel.
Okay got that? Now for number 2.
Second: Where does coal come from?
From The Kentucky Division of Mine Permits:
Coal is formed when peat is altered physically and chemically. This process is called "coalification." During coalification, peat undergoes several changes as a result of bacterial decay, compaction, heat and time.
Peat deposits are quite varied and contain everything from pristine plant parts (roots, bark, spores, etc.) to decayed plants, decay products and even charcoal if the peat caught fire during accumulation.
Peat deposits typically form in a waterlogged environment where plant debris accumulated; peat bogs and peat swamps are examples. In such an environment, the accumulation of plant debris exceeds the rate of bacterial decay of the debris. The bacterial decay rate is reduced because the available oxygen in organic-rich water is completely used up by the decaying process. Anaerobic (without oxygen) decay is much slower than aerobic decay.
For the peat to become coal, it must be buried by sediment. Burial compacts the peat and, consequently, much water is squeezed out during the first stages of burial. Continued burial and the addition of heat and time cause the complex hydrocarbon compounds in the peat to break down and alter in a variety of ways. The gaseous alteration products (methane is one) are typically expelled from the deposit, and the deposit becomes more and more carbon-rich as the other elements disperse. The stages of this trend proceed from plant debris through peat, lignite, sub-bituminous coal, bituminous coal, anthracite coal to graphite (a pure carbon mineral).
Okay got that? Now, on to the point:
Oil, coal and other "fossil" fuels are derived from the remnants of ancient plants and animals. I know this seems like a pedestrian point but it is critical to understand. Once you realize where these fuels came from the whole "climate change" argument breaks down.
You see we are not introducing some new and insidious chemical compound into a once pristine atmosphere. We are simply releasing carbon that was removed from the atmosphere by ancient living organisms.
All of the carbon contained within fossil fuels was once in the atmosphere. The carbon was captured by living organisms and stored. Those organisms died and were subsequently turned into oil or coal by natural processes. The carbon has always been here.
Now I understand that the Earth was a more tropical place then (hotter). But I also understand that plants and animals thrived in that climate. Were sea levels higher then, maybe, but plants and animals thrived. There were lush tropical jungles and innumerable varieties of plants.
Are you with me so far? The carbon was there and the world was fine. In fact think about this; the world was covered in tropical jungles. That means there was a food supply large enough to support an enormous population of dinosaurs. The cooling and "drying" of the Earth resulted in larger areas of deserts and places where the colder climate limits growing seasons. That means a more limited food supply.
Read none of this to imply that I think we should destroy our planet through reckless behavior. Read it to mean that I think the anthropogenic global warming argument is overblown. We have had a planet with much higher carbon content in the atmosphere than we do today. In that carbon rich environment the world did not die, it thrived.