9 Biggest Environmental Issues that the World is Facing Today

Over the last century, our planet has seen a lot of severe environmental changes. The introduction of globalization and industrialization has enabled the human race to progress but has severely impacted the environment. The result is one of the most severe environmental issues of climate change faced by the earth today. This one problem has led to many other issues like warming, forest fires, floods, cyclones etc. Let us look at some of the biggest environmental issues that the world is facing (without any order).

#1 Biodiversity Loss

Over the last century, we have seen a lot of species that have faced extinction and totally vanished from the earth. According to a report by WWF, the population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians have experienced a decline of an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. 

WWF-US President and CEO Carter Roberts says that “This report reminds us that we destroy the planet at our peril—because it is our home. As humanity’s footprint expands into once-wild places, we’re devastating species populations. But we’re also exacerbating climate change and increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19. We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike”.

If we continue to destroy the natural world, we will see more outbreaks like COVID-19, and the next pandemic could be even more deadly and costly.

#2 Plastic Pollution

Source: Pixabay

With the global production of plastics increasing rapidly, numerous plastics are being released into the environment during their life cycle. The introduction of plastics (regardless of sizes, shapes or types) into the environment, is resulting in potential threats to the environment, organisms, or even human health.

In 1950 the world produced only 2 million tonnes per year. Since then, annual production has increased nearly 200-fold, reaching 381 million tonnes in 2015. For context, this is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population.

Plastics are accumulating in the environment and due to their low biodegradability rate, this problem will persist for centuries. It is without a doubt that even if most people do their best, much of that single-use plastic enters the environment, being one of the biggest causes of plastic pollution.

Plastic and microplastic waste have a negative environmental, social, and economic impact, e.g., causing injury/death to marine organisms and entering the food chain, which leads to health problems. Looking at the growing production and usage of plastic in our day to day life, plastic pollution is a very serious concern and a threat to the environment.

#3 Deforestation

Source: Pixabay

Forests cover nearly a third of the world’s landmass, and they play a vital role in balancing the environment and protecting the living world. They provide many benefits like

  • Remove carbon dioxide from the air 
  • Protect and maintain the biodiversity
  • Prevent erosion  
  • Protect against floods 
  • Provide timber and other natural resources

However, humans, for their selfish needs, are destroying these forest lands and occupying the land for developmental activities. They clear the natural landscape to make room for farms and pastures, to harvest timber, and to build roads and houses. These activities result in deforestation. Other causes of deforestation may include drought, forest fires, and climate change. Although deforestation meets some human needs, it also causes major problems, including social conflict, the extinction of plants and animals, and climate change.

#4 Ocean Acidification

A fact that we all should know is that the ocean absorbs almost 1/3 rd of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Hence it is also called as a carbon sink. But when the carbon dioxide comes in contact with the water, it becomes more acidic. The acidic water is harmful to aquatic life as well as coral reefs as it results in coral bleaching. Some scientists have estimated coral reefs are at risk of being completely wiped out by 2050.  Once pH levels reach too low, marine organisms such as oysters, their shells and skeleton could even start to dissolve. 

Hence to protect marine life, it is important to reduce the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.

#5 Overpopulation

Since 1950, the human population rose from 5.3 billion to 7.3 billion people worldwide. By 2050, it’s expected to grow to 9.7 billion people. To meet the needs of the growing population, humans are destroying the natural habitats, cutting down the forests and overusing the natural resources. The increasing anthropogenic activities are resulting in increased GHGs in the atmosphere resulting in larger problems like global warming and climate change.

The increasing population is linked to many other environmental issues and hence it is one of the biggest problems that the world is tackling with.

#6 Water Pollution

Source: Pixabay

Water is one of the vital necessities for life to exist on the earth. Access to pure and sufficient water is the basic requirement for every human being. But due to the irresponsible activities of the humans, water pollution has become one of the biggest threats to mankind.

Water pollution is any kind of pollutant found in lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and human water systems that contain harmful compounds. Human sewage, improperly disposed of toxic waste, accidental oil spills, and even sediment from soil erosion are the main reasons for this problem.

To make things even worse, water pollution puts potable water supplies at risk. “The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017” found that “globally, it is likely that over 80% of wastewater is released to the environment without adequate treatment. If the problem of water pollution is not controlled, majority of the population might face the scarcity of drinking water.

#7 Air Pollution

Source: Pixabay

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems faced today. Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in both cities and rural areas is causing fine particulate matter which result in strokes, heart diseases, lung cancer, acute and chronic respiratory diseases.  According to the WHO, there are around 4.2 million of deaths every year as a result of the ambient (outdoor) air pollution.

Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Natural disasters like dust storms from new desertification,  wildfires, and volcanoes also compromise the air quality even thousands of miles away.

Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases and are important sources of morbidity and mortality. 

#8 Climate Change

Climate change is the most talked global environmental issue in the recent times. The major reason for the climate change are the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and CFCs that are released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, fertilizers, deforestation, and decomposing waste. An increase of these gases in the atmosphere results in the trapping of the heat into the atmosphere, causing the temperature to increase and hence global warming. Scientists predict that if the increase in greenhouse gas emissions continues unabated, temperatures will rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. The phenomenon will lead to other major problems like the melting of the glaciers, rise in the sea water level, loss in biodiversity and may more. The rise in the sea level will drown the large coastal cities where much of the world’s human population lives.

It has become very important to control these carbon emissions by changing our habits.

#9 Waste Production

In 2016, the worlds’ cities generated 2.01 billion tons of solid waste, amounting to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to 3.40 billion tons in 2050.

Naturally, simply dumping waste on the planet has consequences. The effects of waste dumping and improper waste management include:

  • Pollution of soil: Waste can leak hazardous chemicals into the soil and from there into our food.
  • Air pollution: The burning of waste at landfills release toxic substances into the air, including extremely poisoning dioxin.
  • Pollution of oceans: 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year. If we keep dumping plastic in the oceans, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
  • Pollution of groundwater: 280 billion tons of groundwater is being polluted every year – that’s 9000 tons every second.

Zero-waste strategy is the best way to tackle this problem. Leading green companies are becoming zero-waste companies. Zero waste is a philosophy that encourages redesign so that all products are reused. Even zero-waste lifestyle is the best approach to reduce the domestic waste.


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