Climate change and global warming as one of their aspects are becoming obvious not only for the scientists but other planet’s inhabitants. The use of fossil fuels releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is the main reason for this phenomenon and activists and governments all over the world realize the importance of reducing the greenhouse effect. Extreme weather conditions, air pollution, health problems, rising ocean levels are only a few threats humanity is facing due to climate change.
Climate change is a global phenomenon indicating a significant variation of weather conditions (regarding temperature, precipitation, and wind patterns), which are mainly caused by human activities. Climate change is often confused with global warming, although global warming is just one aspect of climate change referring to the rise in global temperatures near the Earth’s surface. The primary reason for climate change is the human use of fossil fuels releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Although a great number of disputes on climate change and global warming exist, many scientists and economists agree that fossil fuel reduction measures would cost less than working with the consequences.
The Earth cools down when the solar energy is reflected off the planet and into space mostly by ice and clouds in return. Greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide create a shell around the Earth and prevent its heat from radiating into space. Even though without the ‘greenhouse effect’ of creating such a shell of gases to catch heat, the temperature on the planet would be too high for humans to survive, now the presence of too many gases in the atmosphere creates an excessive greenhouse effect.
Jacques Fourier was the first scientist, who made a statement about the greenhouse effect in 1824, then Claude Poillet and John Tyndall continued working with the phenomenon. At the end of the 19th century, Svante Arrhenius ran an experiment validating and measuring the greenhouse effect and proved that the air containing carbon dioxide causes air temperature to rise.
The consequences of global climate change
Extreme weather conditions. The more heated the earth’s atmosphere becomes, the more extreme weather events may occur. The changing weather patterns may result in different types of disasters such as storms, droughts, heatwaves, floods, leading to loss of lives, air pollution, property damages, and limited access to the resources like drinking water.
Air pollution. Climate change and atmospheric pollution have a synergistic effect on each other. Higher earth’s temperature results in dirtier air caused by smog, consequences of extreme weather conditions, circulating mold, etc.
Health issues. More heart diseases, heat stress, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular problems occur due to the rise of the global temperature and environmental deterioration. Extreme weather conditions lead to tremendous health problems connected with traumas and infectious diseases.
Rising ocean levels. Due to global warming glaciers melt bringing excessive water to the oceans, raising their level, and jeopardizing coastal ecosystems in the low-lying areas.
Ocean acidification. Oceans absorbing carbon dioxide become very dangerous to underwater life and contribute to coral bleaching events. Today the oceans are about 30% more acidic than they were in the preindustrial period. These processes are bringing harm to sea creatures with calcified shells and skeletons as well as other fish, birds, and mammals deprived of nourishment.
Food insecurity. Climate change causing extreme weather conditions like droughts and floods may be devastating to the farmlands and yield of crops.
Overconsumption, pollution, unsustainable approaches create dangerous environmental issues for the planet. Consideration of ecological problems and approaches to solutions became an important task.
The main environmental issues humanity is facing today are global warming, overpopulation, natural resources depletion (deforestation, Aquifer depletion, overconsumption, defaunation), natural disasters, unsustainable waste. Scientists and governments all over the world are looking for solutions to create ecological approaches to production and renewable resource utilization. The negative environmental effects put at risk human safety and stagger economic costs of the consequences.
Industrialization, urbanization and population growth have caused tremendous environmental changes during the last century. The increased energy demand of the modern lifestyle is making the climate change effect obvious with extreme weather and severe droughts. However, global warming is not the only ecological problem, which affects the planet drastically and should be considered seriously. The road to sustainability has become the task not only for responsible organizations and companies but also for every individual. Becoming aware of the essential environmental issues and understanding approaches to their solution is an important step to the foundation of a better future.
The world’s greatest environmental threats to be considered today are:
Climate change. When burning fossil fuels for energy, greenhouse gases become released. Among the main gases, we could name carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide. The gases increase results in a planet-warming and climate changes causing extreme weather conditions. Ocean’s temperature and Earth’s surface rise leading to polar ice caps melting, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and other unpredictable weather changes. Such effects influence human safety and economic processes.
Overpopulation. At the beginning of the 20th century, the world’s population was 1.6 billion people and is reaching 7.5 billion now, expecting to become 9.7 billion by 2050. Population growth puts a great strain on essential natural resources, like water, food, and fuel. Population explosions are more common in African countries and southern and eastern Asia. Raising the educational level and the possibility to access social services help in controlling reproduction.
Unsustainable waste. Production and consumption at a high rate without realizing environmental effects exhaust natural resources and result in large amounts of non-biodegradable trash. Plastic, chemicals and toxic waste taking centuries to degrade leach into our waterways. For instance, of all plastic with a decomposition time of about 400 years only about 90% is recycled. Innovations bring new solutions to recycling methods and technology creates an opportunity to reduce consumption and buy fewer things. Careful consideration of purchases and choice of durable and reusable products slows are becoming the new trends of consumption today.
Resource depletion. The amount of the natural resources used by the human exceeds what the Earth is able to provide and industrialization even pushes this process further. The most common types of resource depletion are deforestation, Aquifer depletion, some agricultural practices, overconsumption, mining, defaunation. The efforts of scientists all over the world are dedicated to finding alternatives to replace the depleting resources with renewable alternatives and shift to solar, wind, biogas, and geothermal energy sources.
Natural disasters. The existence of the whole ecosystems, flora and fauna is jeopardized when it comes to natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other severe conditions. With global warming, the negative impact constantly worsens and economic costs are staggering. The line between natural and man-made disasters becomes quite subtle, as many of them are caused by human choices in resource management and architecture.
The basic solutions for solving environmental problems are:
using renewable resources,
reduction in consumption,
composting and garbage separation,
support environmentally-conscious businesses and producers,
check information about the green initiatives and innovations, share and apply this knowledge.