Some of the major environmental problems are as follows: 1. Ozone Depletion, Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming 2. Desertification 3. Deforestation 4. Loss of Biodiversity 5. Disposal of Wastes.
1. Ozone Depletion, Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming:
All the three physical phenomena are related to one another to a great extent. To understand their effect on environment, we must first of all know what their meaning, interrelationship and working is.
Ozone is a form of oxygen, which is away from the earth’s surface at a height of about 20 to 30 km in the atmosphere. It is scattered in the stratosphere in the form of a layer about three millimeter thick. This layer works as a shield to protect the earth against the ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun.
Near the earth’s surface, ozone is an increasingly troublesome pollutant but it is also as important to life as oxygen itself. If this layer disappears or thins, all terrestrial life will be annihilated. The thinning and depletion of the ozone layer has generated global concern during the last few years.
This is due to several chemical pollutants discharged by industries and produced through other chemical reactions. The main cause of the ozone depletion is generally attributed to the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which are mostly produced by highly industrialized developed countries. CFCs is a source of energy which is needed most in the modern life.
It is found in many household implements and products. When it is released into the air, it accumulates in the upper atmosphere which destroys the ozone layer. The depletion of ozone layer is linked to both ‘greenhouse effect’ and the phenomenon of ‘global warming’.
The phenomenon commonly known as ‘greenhouse effect’ occurs due to the emission of certain gaseous pollutants (methane, CFCs, water vapour and carbon dioxide are known as greenhouse gases) in the air which after the heating of the atmosphere causes the average global temperature to rise. This is known as ‘global warming’.
In fact, the buildup of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere functions like the glass of a greenhouse. It allows the sun’s rays to pass through, but acts as a barrier to prevent them from passing back. The effect is to heat up the earth. Global warming is sometimes termed the ‘greenhouse effect’ for this reason. Carbon dioxide emissions which cause global warming are mostly from automobiles.
The gases used in the aerosols and refrigerators produce particles that react with the ozone layer in such a way as to weaken it. It is thought that these chemicals have produced detectable holes in the ozone layer at both poles and thinning it elsewhere. These holes have become a serious cause of concern for the environmental scientists of the whole world.
The increase in ozone layer depletion will invite the lethal ultraviolet rays from the sun which will increase cancer (especially skin cancer), eye damage (increase in cataracts of the eyes), injure plants and animals and marine life. It will also help in the re-emergence of diseases such as cholera and viral fevers. (Recently spread bird flu and swine flu may be transformed form of the old viral fevers).
Not only this, it may even reduce our immunity to many diseases. Where population concentration is more, such as in big cities, the effects of ozone depletion will be more disastrous on human health, crops and ecosystem. It has its effect on the earth’s climate by adding to the greenhouse effect which ultimately results in global warming.
The consequences of global warming are likely to be very devastating and disturbing. Among other things, sea levels will rise as a result of melting of glaciers at the poles and the oceans will warm and expand. Cities that lie near the coasts or in low-lying areas will be flooded and become inhabitable. Large tracts of fertile land will become desert.
Looking at the above cited consequences of depletion of ozone layer and global warming, it has been increasingly realized that human existence is in peril unless something is done to check the depletion of ozone layer and global warming. It has become a major concern of the world today.
It is not a local, regional or national problem but a global problem and requires solution at the global level itself. It is only through the combined efforts of the people of this planet that we can, if not fully solve, at least, minimize these environmental problems.
The scientific and technological progress in many ways has improved the quality of human life but at the same time it is also responsible for the depletion of resources, excessive use of fossil fuels, deforestation and desertification, loss of fertility of soil, changes in atmospheric conditions resulting into serious problems like greenhouse effect depletion of ozone layer and global warming.
It is said that atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen since 1950 which has to some extent responsible for the alteration in the earth’s climates. The concern about ozone layer protection began in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1978, the United States banned the principal CFCs for most uses and in 1980 many European countries placed a limit on the production of CFCs. They have cut their use by 30 per cent. In 1975, the UNEP has also expressed concern about the depletion of ozone layer—a biggest environmental problem, and also developed a plan of action on the ozone layer.
As CFCs are mostly used by developed (industrialized) nations, it is their primary duty to check the ozone depletion. Industrialized countries represent about 20 per cent of the humanity but they utilize over 80 per cent of the world energy.
There is no environmental problem in the world that affects people, especially poor people, as extensively as land degradation or desertification. UNCOD defines desertification as ‘the diminution or destructing of the biological potential of land, which can ultimately led to the desert-like conditions’. The causes of desertification are numerous.
However, the important ones include climate change, overgrazing, deforestation and expansion of agriculture. About 35 per cent of the earth’s area (about 6.1 billion hectares) and 900 million people are affected by the problem of desertification. Desertification leads to loss of vegetation which forces men to migrate for their livelihood while the women are left behind to struggle on.
Deforestation is one of the important issues of environmental change and degradation of soil. About 30 per cent of earth’s surface is covered by forests. South America, especially Brazil, West Central Africa and South-East Asia, are home to regions of dense forests.
The human pressure on forests has significantly increased in recent decades. The need for agricultural land, increased demand for fuel and commercial wood, more and more dam construction, large-scale ranching and mining along with growing industrialization and urbanization have ruthlessly exploited the forests and have in turn created chaotic conditions and severe environmental imbalances.
The main cause of deforestation is commercial exploitation of forests. Besides this, as a part of developmental drive, large dams are constructed across many rivers thereby destroying forests. The forests play a pivotal role in balancing the ecosystem or, in other words, in maintaining the oxygen and carbon balance of the earth. Forests have a multiple ecological role to play which affects all types of life in a variety of ways.
They thwart the dangers of cloud drifting, soil erosion, floods, wind erosion and groundwater evaporation. They also protect a wide variety of flora and fauna, provide recreation and can effectively control air pollution. Deforestation destroys symbiotic relationship between ecological infrastructure and animal and human species also.
There has been a growing concern among professional foresters along with social workers about the rate of deforestation everywhere. FAO, UNDP, World Bank and other government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have expressed their opinion about deforestation and suggested plans to protect and renewal of forests. In India, the Chipko Andolan and Narmada Bachao Andolan are the two popular movements which have developed consciousness among the people to raise voice against the ruthless destruction of forests.
4. Loss of Biodiversity:
Today, the extinction of several species or loss of biodiversity is a much debated issue among the environmentalists at international level. Many species are disappearing rapidly. According to an estimate, 20 to 75 species are becoming extinct each day because of deforestation. This loss of biodiversity is mainly due to the degeneration of life support system. It provides the basis for life on earth. Biodiversity means the variety of life on earth.
The diversity is a condition for long-term sustainability of the environment. The maintenance of its integrity is, therefore, recognized as being indispensable to sustain human life. Biological diversity encompasses all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystem and ecological processes of which they are a part.
The increasing interest in biodiversity is a result of concern regarding species extinction, depletion of genetic diversity and disruption to the atmosphere, water supplies, fisheries and forests. Some bird species such as vultures and kites became almost extinct.
Many species of animals and plants are disappearing rapidly because of their high consumption or destruction. All the species are the integral part of ecosystem and extinctions of some species threatens the balance of ecosystem, and also diminishes the well-being of the remaining species, including human beings. Our earth’s biodiversity provides varied sources of food and medicinal plants.
The main causes identified for the loss of biological diversity are:
(i) Habitat loss, fragmentation and modification;
(ii) overexploitation of resources; and
(iii) chemical fertilizers, pesticides and oil pollution.
5. Disposal of Wastes:
The high energy consumption and high population densities of the urban societies give rise to large quantities of waste water and sewage as well as household rubbish. Industrialization and urbanization are the main causes of domestic, industrial and nuclear wastes.
The contaminated water supplies cause many diseases of epidemic nature. The industrial waste consists of chemicals, detergents, metals and synthetic compounds besides the solid waste and garbage. Thousands of tonnes of mercury, nitrogen, phosphorus, cadmium, lead, zinc and other waste is dumped every day in the river and sea waters.
The increased nuclear fuel is becoming as one of the sources of non-conventional energy. The nuclear waste contains radioactive isotopes which generate large quantities of heat. The domestic, industrial and nuclear wastes are serious health hazards and may endanger the biosphere as well.
Industrial waste, pesticides and herbicides enter the waterways through dumping as well as runoff from farms and homes. Many rivers of India including the long seashore are the victims of this disposal of waste. Because of dumping of heavy waste, it is now very difficult to get a cup of totally uncontaminated water from the so-called sacred rivers like Ganga and Yamuna. Inadequate system of solid waste disposal causes adverse impact on health, infant mortality and the birth rate.
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These include pollution, overpopulation, waste disposal, climate change, global warming, the greenhouse effect, etc. Various environment protection programs are being practised at the individual, organizational and government levels with the aim of establishing a balance between man and the environment.What are the 10 most environmental problems? ›
- Climate Change.
- Biodiversity and Land Use.
- Chemicals, Toxics and Heavy Metals.
- Air Pollution.
- Waste Management.
- Ozone Layer Depletion.
Some of the major environmental issues that are causing immense concern are environmental pollution, air pollution, water pollution, garbage pollution, noise pollution, deforestation, resource depletion, climate change etc.What are the top 5 environmental issues that come to mind? ›
- Deforestation: How you can help.
- Air Pollution: How you can help.
- Global Warming: How you can help.
- Water Pollution: How you can help.
- Natural Resource Depletion: How you can help.
Major current environmental issues may include climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and resource depletion. The conservation movement lobbies for protection of endangered species and protection of any ecologically valuable natural areas, genetically modified foods and global warming.What's the biggest environmental problem? ›
One of the biggest environmental problems today is outdoor air pollution. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that an estimated 4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution worldwide every year and that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants.
- Natural Resource Depletion. Another crucial current environmental problem is the depletion of Natural resources. ...
- Generating Unsustainable Waste. ...
- Deforestation. ...
- Polar Ice Caps. ...
- Loss of Biodiversity. ...
- Climate Change. ...
- Ocean Acidification. ...
Pollution is one of the primary causes of many of the other environmental concerns, including climate change and biodiversity. All 7 key types of pollution – air, water, soil, noise, radioactive, light and thermal – are affecting our environment.
- Biodiversity. ...
- Water. ...
- Deforestation. ...
- Pollution. ...
- Climate Change.
Clean air, stable climate, adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, safe use of chemicals, protection from radiation, healthy and safe workplaces, sound agricultural practices, health-supportive cities and built environments, and a preserved nature are all prerequisites for good health.
- Air pollution and climate change. Problem: Overloading of the atmosphere and of ocean waters with carbon. ...
- Deforestation. ...
- Species extinction. ...
- Soil degradation. ...
1 The major environmental issues are pollution, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and climate change. Besides, there are several other environmental issues that also need attention.What are the major environmental problems you are exposed to how are these problems Global? ›
Global Warming and Climate Change
Pollution of air, land and water through excessive deforestation, industrialization and overfilling landfills which emits CO2 and adds to greenhouse gas emissions are all topmost causes of these environmental issues.
The major environmental problems facing Tanzania are land degradation, lack of accessible, good quality water for urban and rural inhabitants, environmental pollution, loss of wildlife habitats and biological diversity, deterioration of aquatic systems and deforestation.