A Research on the Environmental Crisis and the Contributions of Human Activity to the Epidemic Problem of Climate Change

 

The objective of this research paper was to provide evidence and a compelling argument concerning the current environmental crisis. The aspects of the environmental crisis and the prevalence of the problem around the world were also discussed. The present environmental crisis is illustrated by climate change, deforestation, lack of clean water, ozone depletion, contaminated air, and soil and biodiversity loss. Scientific evidence has established that the  environmental crisis is intertwined with human activity around the world (European Environment Agency, 2017). The argument in this paper is that the current environmental crisis has reached epidemic proportions and there is need for collective effort in addressing the crisis. This is because it poses a threat to the future existence of human kind on earth.

Aspects of the Environmental Crisis

Climate Change, Ozone Depletion, and Global Warming

Presently, different geographical regions around the world are experiencing climate change. Climate change is a result of the anthropogenic contamination of the atmosphere with green gases that are emitted by industries, automobiles (European Environment Agency, 2017), horticulture, and livestock farming. Climate change has resulted into an increase in mean surface temperatures. The rise in temperatures has caused the sea levels to rise and this has affected the ecosystem for aquatic species. In addition, rainfall patterns, climatic zones have changed. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the current levels of climate change are attributed to human activity. This is because carbon dioxide levels have never reached 300 ppm since ancient times (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2017). The current rate of global warming is approximately ten times the average rate, the sea levels have increased by at least 20.3 cm in the past century (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2017). Starting from the 19th century, a one degree Celsius rise in the mean surface temperatures has been recorded. The most significant warming patterns have been recorded within the last 35 years. Since the start of the new millennium, there have been 16 years, which were the warmest on record. In addition 2016, recorded the highest number of warm months on record (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2017).

Ozone depletion in the stratosphere was largely caused by the use of halocarbons. Ozone protects the earth atmosphere from ultraviolet-B radiation, which is harmful to the environment and human beings as well (SOAS University of London, 2017). Exposure to UV-B rays is associated with skin cancer.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is another contributing factor to the current environmental crisis. Industrialization has significantly contributed towards air pollution. The levels of air pollution in countries such as India and China has research epidemic levels, to the extent that citizens need to put on air pollution masks. Air pollution is caused by sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, aromatic compounds, and particulate matter among other pollutants (SOAS University of London, 2017). Air pollution is a causative agent for cardiovascular, respiratory, and genetic mutation, which causes cancer in human beings. A case in point is China, which has experienced severe air pollution. Beijing in particular has experienced worst cases of smog. The concentration of particulate matter in the air was approximately forty times above the WHO levels. Roads, schools, manufacturing and real estate constructions were temporarily closed (Albert & Xu, 2016).

Air pollution resulted in approximately 6.5 million deaths; this figure represents approximately 12% of the total global deaths. This means that air pollution related diseases kill more people than road accidents, tuberculosis, and HIV combined. However, these deaths are unevenly distributed around the world with low and middle-income countries recording most of the deaths (Breene & Hutt, 2017). The Middle East, Africa, India, China, and Eastern Europe lead in air pollution. In China alone, over 1 million deaths are attributed to air pollution while in India approximately 600,000 people died. The cost of air pollution to the world economy exceeds $225 billion (Breene & Hutt, 2017).

Contamination of Water Sources

Industrialization, urbanization and the scarcity of available resources has contributed towards the contamination of water sources. Contamination has in turn diminished the quality of available water. Water contamination has resulted in the destruction of coral reefs in oceans and the death of marine species. Water contamination in lakes has triggered the growth of water hyacinth. Oceans and lakes are mainly polluted by run offs and industrial effluents. Run offs deposit phosphorous and nitrogen from farms. Oil spills from offshore drilling activities also contributes towards the pollution of water. Empirical evidence shows that insufficient sanitation is one of the leading causes of water contamination. On average, 1.2 billion people practice open defecation, which contaminates water sources in the vicinity (Pacific Institute, 2010).

The situation is worse in South Asia where over 700 million people defecate in the open. Contamination of water sources with feces causes the spread of waterborne and infectious diseases. These diseases account for approximately 3% of the global deaths and over one billion cases of waterborne diseases (Pacific Institute, 2010). In light of this evidence, there is need for urgent effort in addressing the environmental crisis. The contamination of available water sources leads to a scarcity in water. Other factors that contribute to water scarcity are excessive irrigation and the challenges associated with ocean water desalination.

The industrial revolution in the western hemisphere left a trail of damage in terms of water contamination. Industries emitted carbon dioxide, which was later absorbed by oceans and lakes. The absorption of carbon dioxide caused the water acidity to increase because the carbon dioxide was converted into carbonic acid. Since the 18th century to the present period, the levels of ocean acidity have surged by over 30%. Presently, over 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans yearly (Pacific Institute, 2010).

Deforestation

Deforestation is another aspect that contributes towards the environmental crisis. Many countries around the world have undertaken deforestation in order to provide more space for agriculture, mining activities, timber production, and human settlement. The destruction of forests reduces the available tropical forest cover. Tropical forests help to maintain equilibrium in the current global ecosystem through the mitigation of soil erosion, regulation of global climate, and the provision of a habitat for endangered wildlife species and plants.

The current rates of deforestation are threatening to wipe out the earth’s tropical forest cover in a hundred years from now. The current levels of deforestation are not sustainable; this is because the rate of afforestation does not match the rate of deforestation. Tropical forests close to half the size of Great Britain are lost yearly to deforestation. Forests are known to function as carbon sinks which absorb greenhouse gases and thus help cool the earth. Deforestation therefore, accelerates the pace of global warming (National Geographic, 2017).

Soil Erosion

Uncontrolled deforestation causes soil erosion and degradation. Soil erosion is known to cause desertification because the top layers of soils that are rich in organic matter and minerals have been eroded. Soil erosion causes the soil to be infertile and therefore it cannot support vegetation. Soil erosion and deforestation are linked to habitat loss, variations in land use and loss of biodiversity

Habitat Losses

Habitat losses negatively affect species. Diverse species survive in different habitats with conditions that are suitable for their existence. An example is the Panda, which thrives in bamboo plantations and bears which live in the arctic regions. Cases in point for habitat loss include the coral bleaching and melting of the arctic ice (GreenPeace, 2012). Coral bleaching is caused by the warming of oceans; the bleaching poses a threat to the coral reefs, which form part of the marine ecosystem. Bleaching causes corals to die. Habitat loss poses a threat to the future survival of polar bears, which thrive in the arctic sea ice. Scientific models have established that within the next 100 years, all the ice in the arctic region will have melted (GreenPeace, 2012). Greenland ice sheets receded by up to 250 km3 per year  in the period between 2002 and 2006 (GreenPeace, 2012); with the current global temperatures, the rates of recession may be higher (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2017). Destruction of wildlife habitats also increases the human-wildlife conflict. . The loss of biodiversity contributes towards the extinction of wildlife species and it facilitates the spread of disease. Currently, most animals such as elephants and rhinos in Africa are faced with the threat of extinction due to habitat loss. The marine species are also losing their habitat due to excessive fishing, offshore drilling, and oil spills among other forms of pollution.

Conclusion

 This research paper has provided compelling facts in favor of why the world needs to address the current environmental crisis. Different aspects of the social problem have been considered. From the facts presented, it was established that the environment is intertwined with the health and existence of human beings, wildlife, and plants. The destruction of the environment has contributed towards the current crisis, which has led to economic losses, death, destruction of ecosystems. The current environmental crisis can only be addressed through the sustainable use of available resources, the adoption of clean energy and population control. The impact of global warming and climate change in Africa needs to be explored in detail. This is because there is insufficient information regarding the subject.

Summary

This research article focused on the environmental crisis. Different aspects of the environmental crisis were considered. The aspects included climate change and global warming, deforestation, contamination of water sources, air pollution, and loss of habitats. The objective was to provide compelling evidence in favor of the argument that the current environmental crisis needs to be controlled before it becomes a global epidemic. Evidence in favor of the argument was collected from reputable literature sources such as the Greenpeace, NASA, National Geographic, and European Environmental Agency. From the presented data, it was established that the 21st century has recorded the highest number of warm years in history. Global warming was observed to have ripple effects on the global ecosystem. This is because global warming causes arctic ice sheets and glaciers to recede, ocean levels rise, leading to the disruption of delicate ecosystems. Air pollution is a social problem, which affects the health of the people who are exposed to the pollutants. Water contamination causes waterborne and infectious diseases, which affect the health of millions of people across the world. In addition, contamination of water sources leads to the death of marine species that cannot survive in polluted waters.

Deforestation contributes towards land desertification. Desertification reduces the productivity of the land because it cannot support plants. In addition to desertification, deforestation accelerates the rate of global warming because it eliminates trees, which act as carbon sinks. Habitat losses threat the survival of endangered species such as polar bears. It also increases human wildlife conflict. The prevailing environmental crisis can only be solved through the sustainable of use of resources. 

References

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  2. Breene, K., & Hutt, R. (2017). 7 shocking facts about air pollution. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/air-pollution-the-true-cost-in-numbers/
  3. European Environment Agency. (2017). Environmental challenges in a global context. Retrieved May 4, 2017, from https://www.eea.europa.eu/soer/synthesis/synthesis/chapter7.xhtml
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