20 Major Current Environmental Problems
1. Pollution There are 7 key types of pollution – air, water, soil, noise, radioactive, light and thermal and these are primary causes that affect our environment in many ways. All these types of pollution are interlinked and influence each other. Therefore, we need to tackle all of them together. Pollution of air, water and soil requires millions of years to recoup. Industry and motor vehicle exhaust are the number one pollutant. 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. Soil Degradation Globally, food security depends on the factor whether or not soils are in good condition to produce crops. According to UN estimates, about 12 million hectares of farmland a year get seriously degraded. Soils get damaged due to many reasons. Such reasons include erosion, overgrazing, overexposure to pollutants, monoculture planting, soil compaction, land-use conversion and many more. Nowadays, a wide range of techniques of soil conservation and restoration exist, from no-till agriculture to crop rotation to water-retention through terrace-building.
3. Global Warming Climate changes like global warming are the result of human practices like the emission of greenhouse gases. Global warming leads to rising temperatures of the oceans and the earth’ surface causing natural disasters that include flooding, melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and also unnatural patterns of precipitation such as flash floods, hurricanes, wildfires, drought, excessive snow or desertification.
4. Overpopulation The population of the planet is reaching unsustainable levels as it faces a 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 the use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and insecticides. Overpopulation is also one of the crucial current environmental problems.
5. Natural Resource Depletion Another crucial current environmental problem is the depletion of Natural resources. We, humans, use so many natural resources that it would need almost 1.5 Earths to cover all our needs. This will further increase in the future due to massive industrialization in Asian countries like India and China. Increased use of natural resources leads to a number of other environmental issues, such as industrialization, population growth and air pollution. Over time, natural resource depletion will lead to an energy crisis. The chemicals emitted from many natural resources contribute to climate change. Fossil fuel consumption results in the emission of greenhouse gases, which is primarily responsible for global warming and climate change. Globally, people are making efforts to shift to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, biogas and geothermal energy. As such, the cost of installing the infrastructure and maintaining these sources has plummeted in recent years.
6. Generating Unsustainable Waste The huge production of waste due to our hyper consumption is a major threat to the environment. As per the study, the average person produces 4.3 pounds of waste per day, and the US alone accounting for 220 million tons a year. This hyper consumption results in non-biodegradable trash in the form of plastic packaging, toxic e-waste, and harmful chemicals that leach into our waterways. When this waste ends up in landfills, it generates enormous amounts of methane, which ranks as one of the worst greenhouse gases because of its high potential for global warming. It creates severe explosion hazards. Since modern technology allows us to access digital environments, many things that you need can be fulfilled in the cloud. Consider your purchases carefully.
7. Waste Disposal The overconsumption of resources and the creation of plastics are creating a global crisis of waste disposal. Developed countries are notorious for producing an excessive amount of waste or garbage and dumping their waste in the oceans and less developed countries. Nuclear waste disposal has tremendous health hazards associated with it. Plastic, fast food, packaging and cheap electronic wastes threaten the wellbeing of humans. Waste disposal is, therefore, one of the urgent current environmental problems.
8. 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 the 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 purposes.
9. Polar Ice Caps The issue of the melting of polar ice caps is a contentious one. Although NASA studies have shown that the amount of ice in Antarctica is increasing, however, this increase is only one-third of what is being lost in the Arctic. There is enough evidence that shows sea levels are rising, and the melting of Arctic ice caps is a major contributor. Over time, the melting of polar ice caps could lead to extensive flooding, contamination of drinking water and major changes in ecosystems.
10. Loss of Biodiversity Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and loss of biodiversity. Ecosystems, 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 ecosystem, and human activity threatens the same. Another example is the destruction of coral reefs in the various oceans, which support the rich marine life.
11. Climate Change Climate change is yet another environmental problem that has surfaced in the last couple of decades. It occurs due to the rise in global warming, which happens due to the increase in temperature of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and the release of harmful gases by industries. Climate change has various harmful effects but not limited to the melting of polar ice, change in seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather scenario.
12. Ocean Acidification It is a direct impact of excessive production of CO2. 25% of total atmospheric CO2 is 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.
13. The Nitrogen Cycle We often ignore the effects of the use of nitrogen by humans. Nitrogen is a crucial component of all life. Problems occur when the nitrogen cycle is not balanced.
14. Ozone Layer Depletion The ozone layer is an invisible layer of protection around the planet that protects us from the sun’s harmful rays.
15. Acid Rain Acid rain occurs due to the presence of certain pollutants in the atmosphere. 16. Water Pollution Clean drinking water is becoming a rare commodity. Water is becoming an economic and political issue as the human population fights for this resource.
17. Overfishing Overfishing affects natural ecosystems severely and leads to an imbalance of ocean life. .
18. Urban Sprawl Urban sprawl refers to the migration of population from high-density urban areas to low-density rural areas, which results in the spreading of the city over more and more rural land.
19. Public Health Issues 20. Genetic Engineering Genetic modification of food using biotechnology is called genetic engineering.