What do you mean by environmental issues?
Environmental issues are defined as problems encountered in the Earth’s system, such as climate change, pollution, resource depletion, deforestation, and overpopulation. Human activity is a major reason behind such environmental concern, which directly or indirectly damages the health of the environment.
Almost all environmental problems are the result of over-exploitation of natural resources. Let’s look at some of the major global environmental concerns that are affecting almost all parts of the world right now.
10 global environmental problems that the world is currently facing
1. Climate change
Climate change, one of the major environmental problems, is a long-term change in the Earth’s weather patterns. The biggest consequence of climate change is the rise in the average temperature of the Earth, known as global warming. Climate change could occur naturally due to the changes in Earth’s orbit or amount of energy coming from the Sun.
But in the past 100 years, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased due to human activities. The major human activities responsible for climate change are the burning of fossil fuel, land-use methods, and deforestation. Climate change has a serious impact on the environment, some of them are sea-level rise, glacier melting, and changes in weather and rainfall patterns.
2. Air pollution
Air pollution is one of the biggest concerns all over the world and is considered an international public health issue. Air pollution is defined as the presence of substances in the atmosphere in such concentrations that are harmful to human health and the environment.
According to the WHO report, 91% of the population lives in the area where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits. Particulate matter (PM), one of the air pollutants, causes serious diseases such as asthma, stroke, bronchitis, lung disease, and cancer. Another WHO report states that 4.2 million people die each year due to outdoor air pollution.
3. Water pollution
Water is essential for life and day to day activity. But an introduction of undesirable substances into the water resources alters the physical, chemical, or biological properties of water. Today the quality and quantity of water are major problems all over the parts of the world.
The quality of water has been steadily decreasing over the past few decades. The industrial and agricultural sectors have made the problem of water pollution more heterogeneous. Major sources of water pollution include industrial waste, sewage, mining activities, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and accidental oil spills.
4. Global warming
As we discussed that global warming is one of the consequences of climate change, but it is currently such an important concern that many scientists are studying it separately from climate change.
Earth’s troposphere contains greenhouse gases that trap the heat coming from the sun into the atmosphere. This process is called the greenhouse effect. But in the last two centuries, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased due to human activities and led to dramatic changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, eventually resulting in a warmer climate.
The continuous increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans is called global warming. The major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorine, whose concentrations increase due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use practices.
5. Human population growth
Today the world population is around 7.8 billion and will increase to 2 billion in the next 30 years. Population explosion over the last few centuries has caused many environmental problems such as wild habitat loss, climate change, changes in the water cycle, and global warming.
Due to the overpopulation and lack of resources, many countries of the world are facing many serious problems such as a continuously deteriorating environment, food supply, energy and water resources, starvation, unemployment, crime including suicide and terrorism.
To counter the adverse effects of overpopulation, the right steps need to be taken at the national as well as the international level to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for future generations.
6. Biodiversity loss
Biodiversity is a variety of organisms found in a place on Earth. humans depend directly or indirectly on biodiversity for their basic needs — fertile soil, food, fodder, breathable air, fuel, fertilizer, wood, wine, leather, rubber, medicines, and many raw materials.
Biodiversity loss is a loss of species in a specific habitat or worldwide. This loss is mainly due to human influences, driven by deforestation for agriculture, infrastructure, and urban development, as well as excessive exploitation through hunting and fishing.
Biodiversity loss is not only about the loss of species, but also about the health of a natural ecosystem that provides us a wide range of goods and services. There are many organizations on the international and local levels that work toward biodiversity conservation. You should find such organizations and contribute them to their work.
7. Hazardous waste
Hazardous waste is one of the major problems in developing countries. Hazardous waste is a waste that may contain toxic, explosive, or Infectious substances which is harmful to the environment and health. This waste can be anything from chemicals, materials, and plastics to household waste, and can be in any form such as solids, liquids, and gases.
Sources such as industry, agriculture, mining, research laboratories, and urbanization generate large amounts of toxic waste. Hazardous waste may pose a potential hazard to humans and the environment, especially when improperly managed, treated, or transported.
8. Ozone layer depletion
The ozone layer is located in the lower parts of the stratosphere from about 15–30 km. The ozone layer is a thin natural shield encircling the earth, which protects plants and animals from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The formation and breakdown of ozone is a purely natural process, but the presence of some pollutants accelerates the breakdown of ozone.
Pollutants that damage the ozone layer are widely used as refrigerants, insulating foams, and solvents, such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydrofluorocarbon (HCFC), and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). A thin ozone layer allows more ultraviolet radiation to reach the earth and causes sunburn, cataracts, skin cancer, and aging of the skin.
However, levels of almost all ozone-depleting substances (ODS) have dropped significantly over the past two decades after the Montreal Protocol was implemented. Because of this, the ozone will return to normal levels by about 2050.
Deforestation is the act of felling trees to meet the growing demand for forest products and land for agriculture, urbanization, and industry. The root cause of deforestation is the increasing population and over-exploitation of forest resources.
Deforestation is considered one of the reasons for climate change and global warming. Removal of trees has caused many environmental problems such as loss of biodiversity, aridity, flooding, increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, desertification, and soil erosion. If major steps towards afforestation are not taken, then we will have to face its insurmountable consequences in the future.
10. Land degradation
Any kind of deterioration or loss in the quality and value of the land is known as land degradation. In the last few decades, the pressure of agriculture, urbanization, industrialization, mining, overgrazing, farming, and deforestation has been increasing, which are the main causes of land degradation.
Land degradation is global concerns that affect us through climate change, food insecurity, biodiversity loss, and high food prices. Soil erosion is one of the common forms of land degradation that is defined as the removal of top-soil.