The proliferation of renewable energy installations and greater public awareness and acceptance of localized applications will help to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The extraction of fossil fuels from the Earth and their combustion to produce energy have brought incredible blight upon the health of the planet. The consequential impacts to human health and the loss of diversity of wildlife species have been so vast as to be incalculable.
The importation of natural resources from industrially undeveloped parts of the world in order to sustain the economies of the more developed nations comes with a social impact that eventually carries implications for every individual on the planet. This is particularly true for non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels. We can see this today to a heightened degree in countries such as Nigeria where damage to ecologies both natural and human is often overlooked by major media outlets in the industrialized world. Below are some primary considerations.
- Petro Violence and Civil War
Oppressive governments are often supported and maintained often quite openly by the industries who stand to benefit from strongarm rule over discontented local populations.
- Rentier States
Describes a state that derives its income from the sale of its natural resources to external sources rather than from internal taxation. Such a system is often stunting to democratization and civil enfranchisement which often leads to a lack of incentives for internal innovation and import replacement of goods and services. Governments of rentier states will often establish a system of largesse to counteract the lack of private sector jobs in sectors outside of the main resource export economy.
- "Dutch Disease"
An increase in the value of the currency of a natural resource exporting country makes exports of other (manufactured) goods more expensive to outside countries to import thus depressing the market for manufactured goods within the country. This also naturally leads to an increase in imports. The term "Dutch disease" originates from a crisis in the Netherlands in the 1960s that resulted from discoveries of vast natural gas deposits in the North Sea. The newfound wealth caused the Dutch guilder to rise, making exports of all non-oil products less competitive on the world market.
- Excessive Deficit Spending
Because a resource rich government expects future revenues, it feels more comfortable borrowing money at a higher than advisable pace.
Maintenance of authority is often managed through the supplication of potential rival power sources both internally and externally. Likewise, lucrative periphery consulting contracts granted to outside firms often come with an expectation of kickbacks to government offices.
- Revenue Volatility
Because natural resources are subject to wide and unexpected shifts in pricing, this can cause difficulties to governments whose revenue is dependent on them.
- Lack of Public Sector Investment in Human Capital
High paying jobs in the sectors related to resource extraction and trading draw intellectual capital from the public sector. Because in a rentier state there is a relative lack of demand for knowledge economy jobs for the local population, resources devoted to education infrastructure can be lacking.
- Human Rights Abuses
It can be argued that nations with a high dependence on natural resource exports have less motivation to enforce human rights protections of all kinds. This can lead to increased incidents of abuse of imported labor and less transparency within legal systems.
- Lack of Diversification and Enclave Effects
There is the potential of a negative feedback loop coming into effect where reliance on raw material exports leads to the collapse of manufacturing and knowledge sectors thus increasing the need for and reliance upon resource extraction. Those few local citizens who stand to profit from the sale of natural resources become removed from the rest of society as income becomes more disparate.
- Protection Wars
When the dictatorial regimes of resource rich economies that were so strongly supported by the foreign companies and governments (who stood to benefit from the lack of democratic systems) at some point turn in any way against and/or extend their reach of power too far for the comfort of the industrialized colonial governments, those industrialized governments may decide to solicit regime change by whatever means necessary. Too often in the recent past this has meant the unnecessary sacrifice of thousands of innocent lives on both sides.
More information on this subject can be seen here (PDF).
Impact on Public Health
There is mounting evidence that there is a direct adverse effect on human health to increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment. Other peripheral effects of global climate change will also have impacts on human health causing increasing incidents of respiratory illnesses for example. Lower biodiversity will also have negative impacts on the quality of agricultural products and food supplies could be threatened by increased numbers of invasive species that are able to thrive in areas where the climate had previously been unsuitable.