Climate change is the great environmental problem that humanity will face in the next decade, but it is not the only one. We'll look at some of them, from water scarcity and biodiversity loss to waste management, and discuss the challenges that lie ahead. While the climate crisis has many factors that play a role in exacerbating the environment, there are some that deserve more attention than others. These are some of the biggest environmental problems of our lives, from deforestation and biodiversity loss to food waste and fast fashion.
At the time of publication, the PPM of CO2 (parts per million) is at 418 and the global temperature increase is 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The last time carbon dioxide levels on our planet were as high as today was more than 4 million years ago. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions has caused a rapid and steady increase in global temperatures, which in turn is causing catastrophic events around the world, from Australia and the United States, which suffer from some of the most devastating wildfire seasons in history, locusts that They swarm in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, decimating crops and a heat wave in Antarctica that saw temperatures rise above 20 degrees for the first time. Scientists are constantly warning that the planet has crossed a series of turning points that could have catastrophic consequences, such as the advance of the melting of permafrost in Arctic regions, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet at an unprecedented rate, the acceleration of the sixth mass extinction and the increase in Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, just to name a few.
A third of food intended for human consumption—about 1.3 billion tonnes—is wasted or lost. This is enough to feed 3 billion people. Food waste and loss account for one-third of annual greenhouse gas emissions; if it were a country, food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. UU.
Food waste and loss occur at different stages in developing and developed countries; in developing countries, 40% of food waste occurs after harvesting and processing, while in developed countries, 40% of food waste occurs at the retail and consumption. At the retail level, an alarming amount of food is wasted for aesthetic reasons; in fact, in the United States, more than 50% of all products that are discarded in the United States are made because they are considered “too ugly to sell to consumers”, equivalent to about 60 million tons of fruit and vegetables. This leads to food insecurity, another of the biggest environmental problems on the list. Over the past 50 years, there has been a rapid growth in human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization, causing humanity to use more of the Earth's resources than it can naturally replenish.
More generally, a recent analysis has found that the sixth mass extinction of wildlife on Earth is accelerating. More than 500 species of terrestrial animals are on the brink of extinction and are likely to be lost within 20 years; the same number was lost throughout the past century. Scientists say that without human destruction of nature, this rate of loss would have taken thousands of years. Surprisingly, National Geographic discovered that 91% of all plastic that has been manufactured is not recycled, representing not only one of the biggest environmental problems of our lives, but also another huge market failure.
Considering that plastic takes 400 years to decompose, it will take many generations before it ceases to exist. It is not known what irreversible effects plastic pollution will have on the environment in the long term. Every hour, forests the size of 300 football fields are cut down. By 2030, the planet could have only 10% of its forests; if deforestation is not stopped, they could all disappear in less than 100 years.
Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, another major environmental problem that appears on this list. Land is felled to raise livestock or to plant other crops that are sold, such as sugar cane and palm oil. In addition to carbon sequestration, forests help prevent soil erosion, since the roots of trees bind it together and prevent it from creeping, which also prevents landslides. The three countries experiencing the highest levels of deforestation are Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia, however, Indonesia is tackling deforestation and now has the lowest rates since the beginning of the century.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, attention has been paid to the role played by polluting gases in the air in transporting virus molecules. Preliminary studies have identified a positive correlation between deaths related to COVID-19 and air pollution, and there is also a plausible association of airborne particles that aid the spread of the virus. This could have contributed to the high death toll in China, where air quality is notoriously poor, although more definitive studies must be carried out before such a conclusion can be reached. The climate crisis is warming the Arctic more than twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet.
Today, sea levels are rising more than twice as fast as during most of the 20th century as a result of rising temperatures on Earth. The seas are now rising by an average of 3.2 mm per year worldwide and will continue to grow to about 0.7 meters by the end of this century. In the Arctic, the Greenland ice sheet represents the greatest risk to sea level because the melting of land ice is the main cause of sea level rise. Meanwhile, the Antarctic continent contributes about 1 millimeter per year to sea level rise, accounting for a third of the annual global increase.
In addition, Canada's last fully intact ice shelf in the Arctic recently collapsed, having lost about 80 square kilometers (or 40%) of its area over a two-day period in late July, according to the Canadian Ice Service. The increase in global temperature has not only affected the surface, but is the main cause of ocean acidification. Our oceans absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide released in the Earth's atmosphere. As higher concentrations of carbon emissions are released thanks to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, as well as the effects of global climate change, such as the increase in wildfire rates, so does the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed in the sea.
Some studies have also found that ocean acidification may be linked as one of the effects of plastic pollution in the ocean. The accumulation of bacteria and microorganisms derived from plastic waste dumped in the ocean damages marine ecosystems and contributes to coral bleaching. Studies have shown that the global food system is responsible for up to a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, of which 30% come from livestock and fishing. Agricultural production releases greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, through the use of fertilizers.
In terms of water security, only 3% of the world's water is fresh water, and two-thirds of that amount is hidden in frozen glaciers or not available for our use. As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion consider that water is scarce for at least one month a year. By 2025, two-thirds of the world's population could face water scarcity. Global demand for fashion and clothing has increased at an unprecedented rate, and the fashion industry now accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, becoming one of the biggest environmental problems of our time.
Fashion alone produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the aviation and shipping sectors combined, and nearly 20% of global wastewater, or about 93 billion cubic meters, comes from textile dyeing, according to the United Nations Program for. This rapidly growing problem is only exacerbated by the ever-expanding fast fashion business model, in which companies rely on the fast and cheap production of low-quality clothing to meet the latest and most recent trends. While the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action calls for signatory fashion and textile companies to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, most companies around the world have not yet addressed their role in climate change. More than three billion people around the world rely on fish as their main source of protein.
Around 12% of the world depends on fishing in one way or another, and 90% of them are small-scale fishers; think of a small crew on a boat, not a boat, using small nets or even rods, reels and lures that aren't much different from those likely to be used. Of the 18.9 million fishermen in the world, 90% of them belong to the latter category. Most people eat about twice as much food as 50 years ago, and there are four times more people on Earth than in the late 1960s. This is one of the factors that explains why 30% of waters subject to commercial fishing are classified as “overexploited”.
This means that available fish water reserves are depleted faster than they can be replaced. Overfishing has harmful effects on the environment, such as the increase of algae in the water, the destruction of fishing communities, the accumulation of garbage in the oceans and extremely high rates of biodiversity loss. Climate change affects every part of the world differently. Because of the Earth's biodiversity, changing weather patterns and geographical variety, each region of the world will have to deal with its own set of consequences caused by climate change.
This could mean an increase in the intensity and frequency of major weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, or prolonged periods of droughts and floods. Unfortunately, areas that suffer from food shortages and lack of fresh water will only see their problems worsen. Less water and higher temperatures make it difficult to grow food. Famine and drought give way to civil unrest that gives way to wars.
In that desperation, people can die not only of hunger or thirst, but also of violence fueled by food shortages. The rapid growth of the population and its effects on the exploitation of resources have led to the emergence of many environmental problems. This caused the intensification of the contradiction between population and the resources (26%) of the environment and the deterioration of the ecological environment threatens the existence and development of humanity. Among them, technological innovation and system insurance are the most established measures to develop the serviceability of the ecological environment.
The American academic Commoner and Capra argue that science and technology are the root cause of global environmental problems. In history, many scholars have already been aware of the causal relationship between the population surplus and the environmental crisis. Natural or human factors that caused direct or indirect changes in the ecological environmental system are called the driving force. Academics predict 50 million environmental refugees in the near future, and more than 24 million are already displaced.
Secondly, the system factor causes a low efficiency in the allocation of resource services, which is another important reason for the decline of current services of the ecological environmental system. The dissemination of television, radio and the press has ensured the dissemination of good and bad environmental problems and issues. However, developing countries face a dual role both in economic development and in protecting the environment; it is not practical to emphasize only their responsibility in protecting the environment and sacrificing the right to development. Note 13: Cultural ethics, which do not spare sacrifices of the ecological environment for egocentric purposes, generally weakens awareness of the protection of the global environment and causes many environmental problems.
Since the 1960s, in order to strengthen environmental protection, a series of conferences on the environment have been held around the world, at which a series of environmental declarations and environmental protection conventions have been adopted and a broad common understanding has been reached. Note 16 In fact, the ecological environment increases human well-being through the provision of supply, regulation, culture and support services, satisfying human needs for material, health and safety; in a sense, it is indispensable to human well-being (see fig. . .