Environmental Issues and how they matter YOU

Eng. Joseph Panicker, Int.PE
Sunday, June 2, 2019

In this article, I would like to draw your attention to a matter of great concern to all of us - Climate change, which is having a direct effect on us and the life around us. There is no point we, denying the fact that environment is changing even though there are arguments whether climate change is due to human action or it is a natural phenomenon. Charls Wax, Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University, says that Global climate change may have little or nothing to do with mankind’s burning of fossil fuels and a lot to do with sunspot cycles and other natural phenomena that are not affected by greenhouse gases’. However, hundreds of studies have been conducted to demonstrate that environment change is happening due to the effect of human race and its industrialization and is becoming ever more vital and significant to curb the adverse effect on environment. Through our actions and lifestyle, knowingly or unknowingly we are destroying habitats around us and endangering the lives of our future generations. At this point there is no denying of the fact that our environment is changing. One activist said, only the economist and idiots will deny the effects of Environment Change.

However, I wish to highlight few specific issues that have led to these changes and I feel that without additional information it is difficult to see how they actually matter and why many of the below mentioned issues are linked each other. Here we examine the biggest environmental problems facing our planet today and how they should matter you:

1.Climate Change
The effects of climate change are undoubtedly extensive and vast and are causing ocean level rise, deforestation, fresh water supplies and ecosystems. Each of these has widespread implications of their own, marking climate change as the major environmental issue the planet faces today. As per the recent study, global temperatures have risen by approximately 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. This has direct link to a reduction in Arctic ice of 13.3% per decade.

2.Use of Natural Resources
Human use of natural resources is rising and we would need another Earth to cover our needs. The need of natural resource use will continue to increase particularly due to the industrialization.
Increased resource use is linked to a number of other environmental issues, such as air pollution and population growth. Over time, the depletion of these resources will lead to an energy crisis, and the chemicals emitted by many natural resources are strong contributors to climate change.

3.Transportation:
An ever-growing population needs transportation, much of which is fueled by the natural resources that emit greenhouse gases, such as petroleum. In 2014, transportation including aviation sector accounted for 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation also contributes to a range of other environmental issues, such as the destruction of natural habitats and increase in air pollution.

4.Population Growth
Many of the issues listed here result from the massive population growth that Earth has experienced in the last century. The planet’s population grows by 1.13% per year, which works out to 80 million people.
This results in a number of issues, such as a lack of fresh water, habitat loss for wild animals, overuse of natural resources and even species extinction. The latter is particularly damaging, as the planet is now losing 30,000 species per year.

5.Urbanisation
The continued expansion of urban areas into traditionally rural regions has been linked to environmental issues like air and water pollution increases, in addition to the creation of heat-islands and contributes to forest fragmentation, which often leads to deforestation.

6.Water Pollution
Fresh water is crucial to life on Earth, yet more sources are being polluted through human activities each year. On a global scale, 2 million tons of sewage, agricultural and industrial waste enters the world’s water every day.
Water pollution can have harmful effects outside of contamination of the water we drink. It also disrupts marine life, sometimes altering reproductive cycles and increasing mortality rates.

7.Deforestation
The demands of an increasing population have resulted in increasing levels of deforestation. Current estimates state that the planet is losing 80,000 acres of tropical forests per day.
This results in loss of habitat for many species, placing many at risk and leading to large-scale extinction. Furthermore, deforestation is estimated to produce 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

8.Genetic Modification of Crops
Environmental issues caused by man-made chemicals are becoming clearer. For example, there has been a 90% reduction in the Monarch butterfly population in the United States that can be linked to weed killers that contain glyphosate.
There is also some speculation that genetically-modified plants may leak chemical compounds into soil through their roots, possibly affecting communities of micro-organisms.
9.Waste Production:
Most of the manmade waste ends up in landfills, which generate enormous amounts of methane. Not only does this create explosion hazards, but methane also ranks as one of the worst of the greenhouse gases because of its high global warming potential.

10.Overfishing
It is estimated that 63% of global fish stocks are now considered overfished. This has led to many fishing fleets heading to new waters, which will only serve to deplete fish stocks further.
Overfishing leads to a misbalance of ocean life, severely affecting natural ecosystems. Furthermore, it also has negative effects on coastal communities that rely on fishing to support their economies.

11.Acid Rain
Acid rain comes as a result of air pollution, mostly through chemicals released into the environment when fuel is burned. Its effects are most clearly seen in aquatic ecosystems, where increasing acidity in the water can lead to animal deaths.
Acid rain doesn’t kill trees directly, however it weakens them by damaging leaves, poisoning the trees, reducing its pollination process, reducing fruit bearing capabilities and limiting their available nutrients.

12.Ozone Layer Depletion
Ozone depletion is caused by the release of chemicals, primarily chlorine and bromide, into the atmosphere. A single atom of either has the potential to destroy thousands of ozone molecules before leaving the stratosphere.
Ozone depletion results in allowing more Ultra Violet Rays B (UVB- Short waves) Electromagnetic radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. UVB has been linked to skin cancer and eye disease, plus it affects plant life and has been linked to a reduction of plankton in marine environments.

13.Ocean Acidification
Ocean acidification is the term used to describe the continued lowering of the pH levels of the Earth’s oceans as a result of carbon dioxide emissions. It is estimated that ocean acidity will increase by 150% by 2100 if efforts aren’t made to halt it.
This increase in acidification can have direct effect on calcifying species, such as shellfish. This causes issues throughout the food chain and may lead to reductions in aquatic life that would otherwise not be affected by acidification.

14.Air Pollution
Air pollution is becoming an increasingly dangerous problem, particularly in heavily-populated cities. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels deemed unfit by the organization.
It is also directly linked to other environmental issues, such as acid rain and eutrophication. Animals and humans are also at risk of developing a number of health problems due to air pollution.

15.Lowered Biodiversity
Continued human activities and expansion have led to lowered biodiversity. A lack of biodiversity means that future generations will have to deal with increasing vulnerability of plants to pests and fewer sources of fresh water.
With most of the focus being placed on the carbon cycle, the effects of human use of nitrogen often slip from our attention. It is estimated that agriculture may be responsible for half of the nitrogen fixation on earth, primarily through the use and production of man-made fertilizers.
Excess levels of nitrogen in water can cause issues in marine ecosystems, primarily through overstimulation of plant and algae growth. This can result in blocked intakes and less light getting to deeper waters, damaging the rest of the marine population.

16.Polar Caps
The issue of the melting of polar ice caps is a contentious one. The amount of ice in Antarctica is actually increasing, these rises only amount to a third of what is being lost in the Arctic.

There is strong evidence to suggest that sea levels are rising, with the Arctic ice caps melting being a major contributor. Over time, this could lead to extensive flooding, contamination of drinking water and major changes in ecosystems.

Conclusion:
The impact that human activities have on the environment around us is undeniable and more studies are being conducted each year to show the extent of the issue.
Climate change and the many factors that contribute to emissions could lead to catastrophic issues in the future.
More needs to be done to remedy the major environmental issues that affect us today. If this doesn’t happen, the possibility exists that great swathes of the planet will become uninhabitable in the future.
The key is that they are all important challenges that need to be confronted. The good news is that many of these issues can be controlled. By making adjustments, humanity can have a direct and positive impact on the environment.
Please feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.
Resources
http://www.globalactionplan.org.uk/
http://eu.earthwatch.org/
http://www.rff.org/home

Eng. Joseph Panicker, Int.PE

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Express your comment on this article

 
Gopalakrishnan Vengatachalapathy
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Very Nice and more informative best Article on Environmental Issues.......Congratulations Sir..!

shaik esdani basha
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
I have started promoting plantation in my area, is it anyway going to help and minimize global warming if we concentrate on forestation and plantations

RAMAKRISHNAN KANYAKUMARICHANDU
Thursday, June 6, 2019
I would appreciate you sir, if you had covered topics of This years Environment Day Teme on Beat Air Pollution. Those in the article you have mentioned are Theritically Available information where in if you had covered Air Pollution Statistics World Wide and Kuwait in particular it would have been an useful messageHowever Appreciate your interest on Environment Issues and How they matter YOU. For Students especially these are already known information in their subject,
Rgds

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