Nuclear waste, extinction of species, global warming, and pollution are some of the items in the list of global environmental issues. Beyond world energy crisis and global warming, there exist other environmental issues, each equally hazardous and of concern. Most importantly, these issues are interconnected, and it’s difficult to solve each at a time.
Here are the top five megatrends that present the biggest threats to our home – earth. These problems must be solved if the earth is to remain a support habitat for people, plants, and animal species.
1. Climate change and air pollution
Scientists argue that the current level of human activities is overloading the ocean waters and the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. The atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbs and re-emits infrared-wavelength radiation. This results in warmer air, ocean surface waters, and warmer soil. Though this sounds good because without it the planet would freeze, it’s a problem too.
Currently, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is now too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Deforestation for agriculture, burning of fossil fuels, and different industrial activities are pushing the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to more than 400 parts per million. Scientists assert that the C02 concentration was 280 parts per million 200 years ago, and the current level indicates an unprecedented rise in both speed and size. The results: climate change.
Note that emission of greenhouse gases is just a single impact of air pollution. The WHO (World Health Organization) recently released a report indicating that one in every 9 deaths in 2012 were associated with health conditions caused by carcinogens and other toxic substances in the air.
2. Species extinction
Different animal species are being hunted to extinction for ‘medicinal’ products, bush meat, or ivory. At lakes, large rivers, seas, and oceans, large industrial fishing vessels equipped with purse-seine or bottom-trawling nets are cleaning out a large proportion of fish and other aquatic animals population.
The destruction and loss of habitats are also leading factors contributing to the growing wave of extinction. And the surprising fact is that all these problems are caused by a single species – humans. Well, this doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t use the resources offered by Mother Nature, but overusing them poses a risk of extinction.
All species inherently deserve to exist. They provide essential products and services necessary for the survival of humans. For instance, think of bees and their pollution magic – it’s a necessity for growing food.
3. Growing population
The global human population is growing rapidly. Humanity ushered in the 20th century with approximately 1.6 billion people. Right now, there are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world. What’s more disturbing is that estimates put this population at 10 billion by 2050!
The growing world population coupled with the growing influence is putting significant pressure on natural resources like land and water. Much of this population growth is happening in the south and eastern Asia and the African continent.
In the tropical region, species-rich vast forests are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, rubber plantations, cattle ranching, and other agricultural monocultures. Today, only 30% of earth’s land surface is covered by forests. This is half of the land covered by forests about 11,000 years ago before agriculture started.
Approximately 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forests are destroyed annually, especially in the tropical region. The tropical forests covered about 15% of the earth’s land area. However, this percentage has dropped to 6% or 7%.
Natural forests are biodiversity reserves. They also serve as ‘carbon sinks’ as they keep carbon dioxide out of the oceans and atmosphere.
5. Soil degradation
Soil compaction, overgrazing, exposure to pollutants, monoculture planting, erosion, and land-use conversion are some of the ways soils are being degraded. According to the UN estimates, about 12 million hectares of farmland gets severely degraded.
The global environmental issues faced today are not restricted to the ones mentioned here. Nanotoxicology, genetic pollution, nuclear waste, and other related issues are surfacing. It appears that the list of global environmental issues is getting longer with time. Unless we start doing something to stop these issues, the time isn’t far when humans will have no option but to surrender to chaotic ecosystems.