What are the top 5 environmental issues today? Glad you asked! Let’s dig in. .
Ok, call it global warming if you must.
Ahh, yes. The debate has wrapped up, and the reality is setting in. Locally in Jacksonville, Florida, developed riverfront property that used to sell for $10 Million is now going for $2 Million. Why? Rising water levels along the St. Johns River are flooding these expensive, waterfront homes.
One thing that the geologic record has shown us is that there will be seasons of change. The USGS says that rising sea level is one of the most profound changes associated with climate change.
Sea level rose to as much as 100 feet above the present level during a time of global warmth about 3 million years ago. Yep. That puts most of the Florida peninsula underwater.
One thing is for sure; climate change is going to happen, be it from natural variations in climate change coupled with those changes induced by humans. Sure, we can get a grip on our carbon footprint, but always remember – geology happens!
Deforestation is generally thought of as the removal of a forest or stand of trees to make way for some other land use. We tend to think of the tropical Amazon rainforest here. Forests cover more than 30% of the Earth’s land surface. Experts estimate that a forest the size of a soccer field is lost every second to deforestation.
So what’s the major issue here? Well, there are a few:
- Tropical rainforests (where most deforestation is happening) are home to 80% of our terrestrial biodiversity.
- Seventy-five percent of the Earth’s freshwater comes from forested watersheds, and the loss of trees can affect water quality.
- Deforestation not only removes vegetation that is important for removing carbon dioxide from the air, but the act of clearing the forests also produces greenhouse gas emissions, a significant contributor to our friend above, climate change.
While we’re on this topic, let’s throw the Australian bushfires in the mix here. Yes, these things happen. Yes, this is a seasonal thing, but this year’s fires are one of the most devastating on record. Sixteen million acres have gone up in flames. This has produced an enormous amount of heat-trapping carbon emissions. It’s estimated the wildfires in Australia unleashed about 900 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to nearly double the country’s total yearly fossil fuel emissions. Forest regrowth could eventually offset some of the emissions. However, researchers worry that the uptick in the heat-trapping greenhouse gas could accelerate climate change and portend a “new normal” for yearly emissions, particularly as global warming intensifies wildfires and lengthens fire seasons. On to the next.
According to National Geographic, “Pollution is the introduction of harmful materials into the environment. These harmful materials are called pollutants. Pollutants can be natural, such as volcanic ash. They are also created by human activity, such as trash or runoff produced by factories. Pollutants damage the quality of air, water, and land.”
There are seven different kinds of pollution: water, air, soil, thermal, radioactive, noise, and light. These can all contribute to health problems and a lower quality of life with major disruptions and effects on wildlife and ecosystems. One of the most significant problems facing the world today is that of environmental pollution, which is causing irreparable damage to the natural world and human society. About 40% of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air, and soil pollution. Coupled with human overpopulation, this has contributed to the malnutrition of 3.7 billion people worldwide, making them more susceptible to disease.
A polluted environment is also a polluted society – one we created and one only we can renew. We took a look at the impact of a specific emerging pollutant, PFAS, on sustainability a few weeks ago. Check that out here.
Human overpopulation occurs when there are too many people for the Earth to support. What’s the maximum human population that the Earth can sustain? Many scientists believe it’s around 9 to 10 billion people.
Ahh, yes, sustainability. These same words keep coming up over and over again, don’t they?
According to the latest U.N. projections, as many as 11 billion people may inhabit the Earth by the end of this century. “Whether it is 10 billion or 11 billion, it is a big number, and this has huge implications for food security, for resource management, for the environment,” said K. Bruce Newbold, director at the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University in Canada. “I hate to be a doomsayer, but I do have concerns about whether we are prepared for that.”
Though population growth is slowing down, the total world population itself is increasing, and in areas that are already very vulnerable, like Africa. By 2100, Africa’s population will be second to only that of Asia. According to Pew Research, “Africa is the only world region projected to have strong population growth for the rest of this century. Between 2020 and 2100, Africa’s population is expected to increase from 1.3 billion to 4.3 billion. Projections show these gains will come mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to more than triple in population by 2100. The regions that include the United States and Canada (Northern America) and Australia and New Zealand (Oceania) are projected to grow throughout the rest of the century, too, but at slower rates than Africa.” When you add climate change into that equation, it creates additional problems. These include changes in precipitation patterns and possibly decreased precipitation in some parts of Africa. This will increase the inability to support crops and human habitation in the future and would have further repercussions. Even today, 20 million people in the Sahel region in Africa, which extends across the continent, are food insecure. Interestingly, the world population is expected to significantly slow down in growth around 2100, primarily due to lower fertility rates. But will we reach the breaking point at about the same time?
Biodiversity is essentially every living thing and ecosystem that makes up the environment. From the tallest giraffe to the smallest microorganisms, everything plays an essential role in the maintenance of our world.
Biodiversity is the most vital and complex feature of our planet, and it’s important to us for many reasons.
Biodiversity provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air, and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment, and many ecosystem services. About 75 percent of our food supply comes from just 12 plant species, and more than 90 percent of global livestock production comes from only 15 species of mammals and birds. That’s deceptive, though, because those 27 species — along with many others that also provide food for humans — couldn’t exist without help from hundreds of thousands of lesser-known species working behind the scenes.
By having a diverse mix of plants, fungi, and animals to eat, we ensure nutrition that buffers our bodies against disease and other hardships.
Biodiversity also offers a type of insurance through resilience. According to the Mother Nature Network, “Biodiversity ensures ecosystems against declines in their functioning because many species provide greater guarantees that some will maintain functioning even if others fail.”
Making sustainable choices can help keep our planet running smoothly.
Wrapping up the top 5 environmental issues today
Obviously, some of the critical environmental issues today go hand in hand.
Consider biodiversity. With the increase in deforestation, global warming, and pollution, biodiversity is in danger. Billions of species are going or have gone extinct all over the world. Scientists are suggesting that we are at the beginning of a 6th mass extinction, posing issues for our planet and it’s inhabitants.
Everything seems to be linked in our environment when we consider this perspective on the top 5 environmental issues today. Everything connects, that’s for sure!
Please contact us if we can help you resolve any environmental issues that you may have.