Environmental Change Causes and Effects.

  1. Environmental Change:

Environmental change is a change or disturbance of the environment most often caused by human influences and natural ecological processes. Environmental changes can include any number of things, including natural disasters, human interferences, or animal interaction. Environmental change does not only encompass physical changes, but it can be things like an infestation of invasive species is also environmental changes.

Our environment is constantly changing. There is no denying that. However, as our environment changes, so does the need to become increasingly aware of the problems that surround it. With a massive influx of natural disasters, warming and cooling periods, different types of weather patterns and much more, people need to be aware of what types of environmental problems our planet is facing.

Global warming has become an undisputed fact about our current livelihoods; our planet is warming up and we are definitely part of the problem. However, this isn’t the only environmental problem that we should be concerned about. All across the world, people are facing a wealth of new and challenging environmental problems every day. Some of them are small and only affect a few ecosystems, but others are drastically changing the landscape of what we already know.

Our planet is poised at the brink of a severe environmental crisis. Current environmental problems make us vulnerable to disasters and tragedies, now and in the future. We are in a state of planetary emergency, with environmental problems piling up high around us. Unless we address the various issues prudently and seriously we are surely doomed for disaster. Current environmental problems require urgent attention.

2- Major Current Environmental Problems:

2.1 Pollution: Pollution of air, water and soil require millions of years to recoup. Industry and motor vehicle exhaust are the number one pollutants. Heavy metals, nitrates and plastic are toxins responsible for pollution. While water pollution is caused by oil spill, acid rain, urban runoff; air pollution is caused by various gases and toxins released by industries and factories and combustion of fossil fuels; soil pollution is majorly caused by industrial waste that deprives soil from essential nutrients.

2.2 Global Warming: Climate changes like global warming is the result of human practices like emission of Greenhouse gases. Global warming leads to rising temperatures of the oceans and the earth’ surface causing melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and also unnatural patterns of precipitation such as flash floods, excessive snow or desertification.

2.3. Overpopulation: The population of the planet is reaching unsustainable levels as it faces shortage of resources like water, fuel and food. Population explosion in less developed and developing countries is straining the already scarce resources. Intensive agriculture practiced to produce food damages the environment through use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and insecticides. Overpopulation is one of the crucial current environmental problems.

2.4. Climate Change: Climate change is yet another environmental problem that has surfaced in last couple of decades. It occurs due to rise in global warming which occurs due to increase in temperature of atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels and release of harmful gases by industries. Climate change has various harmful effects but not limited to melting of polar ice, change in seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather scenario.

2.5. Loss of Biodiversity: Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and and loss of bio-diversity. Eco systems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species population is decimating. Balance of natural processes like pollination is crucial to the survival of the eco-system and human activity threatens the same. Another example is the destruction of coral reefs in the various oceans, which support the rich marine life.

2.6. Deforestation: Our forests are natural sinks of carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen as well as helps in regulating temperature and rainfall. At present forests cover 30% of the land but every year tree cover is lost amounting to the country of Panama due to growing population demand for more food, shelter and cloth. Deforestation simply means clearing of green cover and make that land available for residential, industrial or commercial purpose.

3- Causes of Environmental Change:

3.1. High quantity of Exhaust gases: The biggest reason by far for all kinds of environmental degradation is the exorbitant amount of gases, harmful to the environment, which is released by the various industries. Prime amongst these gases are C02, S02 and NH3. Of course there are many more, and these are the main culprits for ozone holes and global warming.

3.2. High number of industries such as mining: Mining creates a lot of pollution, mainly because it releases particulate matter, which qualifies as Respirable Particulate Matter (RPM); the particulate matter which can enter our lungs and can harm the entire respiratory system. This form causes the most direct harm to humans, also particulate matter can come from indoor pollution, as can be seen in cooking on traditional ‘choolahs’ and cottage industries like ‘bangle-making’.

3.3. Chemical effluents: Effluents are another by-product of industries which poses threat to the environment, leather and tanning industries, petroleum industries and chemical manufacturing industries create major waste products which are released directly into nearby streams without treatment, creating river pollution and causing harm to aquatic life.

3.4. Transport: As the spending power of the population increases and as cars become available more, the number of vehicles on the road increases. The amount has grown exponentially in countries like India, Brazil and China and this is a point form of pollution which directly affects humans. Smog is a nuisance that is created because of vehicular pollution, and Hydro-Carbons released from engines are the cause of creation of lower level ozone that is harmful to humans.

3.5. Unprecedented Construction: Urban Heat Island is a direct cause of the unprecedented construction activities that are being carried out right now, and urban heat island causes trapping of pollutants. Urban Heat island is an effect caused due to trapping of solar radiation by concrete and cement which are materials which trap heat extremely well. Construction causes removal of vegetative cover which usually allows for better exchange of heat. This heat island effect causes constricted circulation of air, which traps pollutants released in urban areas and does not allow for mixing of the air, thus decreasing the air quality.

3.6. Secondary Pollutants: Secondary pollutants are ones that are not directly emitted; however they get created when primary pollutants react amongst themselves. Major amongst them is the creation of ozone from reaction between non-burnt Hydrocarbons and Nitrous Oxides. There are various other secondary pollutants and the reaction between these pollutants cause reactions that lead to formation of ozone holes. Stratospheric clouds are the main reaction sites for such pollutants.

3.7. Ruinous agricultural policies: Overloading the land with fertilizers, overgrazing and shifting agriculture are ruinous agricultural policies that degrade land, creating soil erosion that leads to silting in major rivers and reservoirs. Soil degradation is a continuous cycle and it ultimately leads to desertification and degradation of land quality by allowing the direct action of eroding agents on cultivable land.

3.8. The Population Explosion: The increasing population creates a load that the entire environment has to support, not only in terms of food and lodging, but also in terms of the amount of waste that it generates and the ability of the environment to sustain this growth. All major activities are carried out to support this growing population, and whilst this is unavoidable, what is required is the proper planning that should come with this explosion.

3.9. Unplanned Land-use policies: Land models are available these days which help in proper planning and use of land resources. However, failure to use these models and land management policies can lead to land pollution and degradation of the worst kind. Extraction from mines renders them unusable for habitation and if rehabilitation work is not carried out, the piece of land is sure to lose all its value and become unusable. Land classification is one of the major activities that help in proper land use, and it should be followed with utmost care.

4- Effects of Environmental Changes

4.1. Impact on Human Health: Human health might be at the receiving end as a result of the environmental degradation. Areas exposed to toxic air pollutants can cause respiratory problems like pneumonia and asthma. Millions of people are known to have died of due to indirect effects of air pollution.

4.2. Loss of Biodiversity: Biodiversity is important for maintaining balance of the ecosystem in the form of combating pollution, restoring nutrients, protecting water sources and stabilizing climate. Deforestation, global warming, overpopulation and pollution are few of the major causes for loss of biodiversity.

4.3. Ozone Layer Depletion: Ozone layer is responsible for protecting earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. The presence of chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere is causing the ozone layer to deplete. As it will deplete, it will emit harmful radiations back to the earth.

4.4. Loss for Tourism Industry: The deterioration of environment can be a huge setback for tourism industry that rely on tourists for their daily livelihood. Environmental damage in the form of loss of green cover, loss of biodiversity, huge landfills, increased air and water pollution can be a big turn off for most of the tourists.

4.5. Economic Impact: The huge cost that a country may have to borne due to environmental degradation can have big economic impact in terms of restoration of green cover, cleaning up of landfills and protection of endangered species. The economic impact can also be in terms of  loss of tourism industry.

4.6. Acid Rain: Acid rain occurs due to the presence of certain pollutants in the atmosphere. Acid rain can be caused due to combustion of fossil fuels or erupting volcanoes or rotting vegetation which release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Acid rain is a known  environmental problem that can have serious effect on human health, wildlife and aquatic species.

4.7. Ocean Acidification: It is a direct impact of excessive production of CO2. 25% of CO2 produced by humans. The ocean acidity has increased by the last 250 years but by 2100, it may shoot up by 150%. The main impact is on shellfish and plankton in the same way as human osteoporosis.

4.8. Public Health Issues: The current environmental problems pose a lot of risk to health of humans, and animals. Dirty water is the biggest health risk of the world and poses threat to the quality of life and public health. Run-off to rivers carries along toxins, chemicals and disease carrying organisms. Pollutants cause respiratory disease like Asthma and cardiac-vascular problems. High temperatures encourage the spread of infectious diseases like Dengue.

5- References:

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/15-current-environmental-problems.php by Rankesh.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_change

https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2012/01/top-10-causes-of-environmental-damage/ by Rishin Mukherjee.

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-environmental-degradation.php by Rankesh.

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Fawad's Chemistry

Hope you fine. I'm Fawad and author of this blog "Chemanalogy". Love to write on Chemistry. Currently teaching A Levels, O Levels and University Chemistry offline as well as online. Connect to chemanalogy community by subscribing via email.